This story appears in FCA Magazine’s March/April 2017 issue. Subscribe today!
Born: Nov. 2, 1976
Hometown: Moorhead, Minnesota
Height/Weight: 6-1/200 lbs.
•Two-time Stanley Cup Champion (2006 Carolina Hurricanes,
2016 Pittsburgh Penguins)
• Has played for eight teams during his 20-year NHL career
• Four-time World Championships participant, including 2004 bronze
medalist with Team USA
“…‘Well done, my good and faithful servant…’” – Matthew 25:21a
Despite playing the game for the first time at two years old and being the son of a high school hockey coach in northern Minnesota, I never really dreamed of playing in the NHL. Nobody from my hometown of Moorhead had ever made it that far, so it seemed like such a long shot in my mind. I never even considered it as anything remotely close to reality.
That didn’t keep me from enjoying hockey, especially when I could play with my siblings, but I just didn’t ever think about a future in the game. However, toward the end of my high school career, I started hearing my name in draft projections. So obviously, it appeared that playing professionally was at least a possibility, and that was probably the first time I even dared to allow myself to start thinking about it.
During that time, it was great to have supportive parents who were going to be there for me wherever my future took me. They had helped establish a foundation of faith in both my siblings and me. We grew up in the church, and Jesus was an important part of our lives from a young age. My mom especially was good about making sure He was a priority in our lives.
After high school, I went to St. Cloud State College in Minnesota to play hockey. And after my second year there, I was drafted 35th overall by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (now just the Anaheim Ducks) in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.
I was excited to be playing professionally the sport I had always loved, but being away from home was a challenging time for my faith. I was a young guy trying to fit in on a team of grown men. I went through a stretch where my faith took a backseat, and I lost track of where I was for a little while.
Off the ice I was lost, but on it things were going really well. I was seeing a lot of playing time when I reconnected with my now wife, Bridget, in Anaheim. We had dated in high school back in Minnesota but had since gone our separate ways. We got back together in California, started dating again, and soon got engaged. I thank God for orchestrating that because having her back in my life really helped me get my relationship with Him back on track. With Bridget’s help and encouragement, I rededicated myself to Christ.
Since then, my faith journey has been a continual growing process, right along with a 20-year NHL career that has spanned eight different organizations. With each stop along the way, we’ve grown deeper in God’s Word and truth, reincorporating it into our lives and relationships, and being encouraged through the churches we’ve attended.
I’m proud of the fact that people know I am a Christ-follower playing in the NHL. Hockey is such an up-and-down sport. One day you’re on top of the world, and the next you’re down in the dumps. My faith helps put things in the right frame of mind where I keep my eye on what’s truly important: playing my hardest and putting everything I have into the game. I was given a gift, and it’s my responsibility to make the most of it for God’s glory. Having that perspective has really helped me handle the ups and downs that each season can bring.
As I’ve grown older, I’m less concerned with what other people think and more concerned with being who God made me to be. That mentality has also helped me to reach out and help others, especially guys in the locker room. I feel a sense of responsibility to be a positive influence on my younger teammates while I still have the opportunity. I’ve been through what they’re going through, so I feel confident in reaching out to them to help make a difference in their careers and lives.
I thank God for putting me in this position to play the game I’ve loved since I was a toddler. He’s allowed me to fulfill the dream of hoisting the Stanley Cup (twice) and, more importantly, to develop lifelong relationships.
My faith is what comforts me when I think of my hockey career coming to a close. I hope I’ve made a positive impact on the people I’ve come in touch with and made a difference in their lives. And I hope people appreciate and respect what I’ve done in the game, the kind of person and man I am, and the legacy of faith in Christ I’ll leave behind.
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Photos courtesy of the Pittsburgh Penguins