November 2010 Dave Pond
These days, it’s the rare athlete who plays his entire career with the same organization. Trades and free agency offer players unlimited opportunities to reshuffle the deck in search of better situations. But for Mike Fisher—the 1998 second-round draft pick of the Ottawa Senators and a Peterborough, Ontario, native—the chance to skate for what equates to his hometown team has brought blessings unmatched by any contract offer.
“I was very fortunate to be drafted close to home and to have family and friends nearby,” he said. “When the Senators selected me, I was 19 years old and headed off to chase my dream. If I had gone south or gotten drafted somewhere else 2,000 miles away, I think it would have been a different story. But God has had His hand on my situation from day one, and I know He’s wanted me here for a reason.”
A team leader on and off the ice, Fisher, who serves as one of the Senators’ alternate captains, pours himself into his teammates and the community with an unrivaled passion fueled by his relationship with Christ—a bond that’s been evident to friends, fans, teammates and strangers.
“Mike’s reputation as a Christian reaches across the NHL and beyond,” said Jack O’Halloran, FCA’s national director in Canada. “He’s not afraid to proclaim his faith out loud.”
In late August, O’Halloran—a heralded prep hockey coach and former professional goalkeeper who works closely with the FCA Hockey Ministry—was talking with a Louisiana-based Central Hockey League player who was interested in leading his team’s Bible study. The player was uncertain how to proceed, except for one thing.
“He knew he wanted to connect with Mike Fisher,” O’Halloran said. “When I asked him why, he said that Mike was the one guy in the NHL that everyone knew was a Christian. He’s not afraid of it, and he doesn’t hide it. It says a lot about a person’s faith and walk with Christ when they are known for it to such an extent.”
Fisher, who became a Christian at age 6, credits his parents for helping him develop and strengthen his relationship with Christ. Yet, he admits that there was a period in his life when he wrestled with fame, success and attempting to find his niche in the professional hockey environment.
“I really struggled through my late teens and early 20s with trying too hard to fit in,” he said. “I was getting away from the things that I knew God wanted for me. I knew what was right and what I was supposed to be doing but, at that time, it wasn’t real to me and it wasn’t personal.”
As a public figure in the Ottawa community, Fisher uses his fame to make a difference by participating in outreach events through the Senators, his own hockey camps and various charitable organizations.
An older cousin of Fisher’s, Warren Robinson, reached out to the young star. He took Fisher into his family’s home and pointed him back to the cross and to the teachings of Christ.
“Warren could tell I was struggling and needed a bit of spiritual direction,” Fisher said. “He’d gone through a lot of the same struggles, so we started doing a Bible study and began to pray and really go through Scripture together.”
With a renewed focus on Christ, Fisher’s perspective changed dramatically regarding money, celebrity and even hockey itself—a sport he loved but that had approached idol status in his journey through the prep and professional ranks.
“Hockey is a great game, and it’s a lot of fun,” Fisher said. “It’s my job and something I’m blessed to be able to do, but God has shown me that there’s so much more to life than that. He’s given me a different outlook and has shown me the importance of knowing where everything really stands.
“When you get a taste of the Holy Spirit, how God can use you and what He wants from you, it’s awesome,” he continued. “Through all of the pressures and the trials I was going through, God clearly showed me who I needed to become and who He wanted me to be.”
Fisher debuted with the Senators in October of '99 and has yet to don another NHL sweater. Known for a gritty, both-ends-of-the-ice style of play, which he’s been able to maintain for more than 600 games, Fisher has captured the respect and admiration of Ottawa’s rabid fan base—a community in which he actively engages off the ice.
|BRINGING IT HOME|
Being drafted by the Ottawa Senators was a blessing for Canada native Mike Fisher. After being born and raised north of the U.S. border, Fisher has been able to play out his career in front of family and friends as a part of one of the six Canada-based NHL teams.
As athletes and coaches, playing in front of a home crowd offers a big advantage. The roar of the fans can go a long way in boosting the morale and spirits of a team in need of a jolt. It can spur on inspiring victories and amazing comebacks.
In life, we compete daily in a spiritual battle similar to any athletic contest, but with results of infinitely more value. Every day we square off against “spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12) that want nothing more than to rob us of everything good and to ultimately keep us from spending eternity with our Father in Heaven.
When it comes to spiritual battles, though, there is one way to gain permanent home-field advantage, and that is to enlist the support of the ultimate “home team.” If we choose to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and our Savior, we will receive power and love that is unmatched by any other. It’s the kind of support that can carry us through even the most difficult challenges here on earth until we are able to join the eternal post-game victory celeration in Heaven.
In order to gain such support, though, we first must acknowledge our need for it. The Bible says that we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), but that forgiveness is available when we accept Christ’s payment for our sins, which He accomplished by selflessly dying for us on the cross. When we acknowledge His death in our place, receive His forgiveness and then give Him the Lordship over our lives, we can begin living a life of joy, peace and freedom rooted in His unconditional love. We can then begin competing in the daily battles of life with constant support from the ultimate Heavenly crowd, led by our Savior.
Today, if you find yourself in a perpetual away-game, change sides. God wants you to be part of His home team, and He is inviting you to embrace His forgiveness, love and unrivaled support through Jesus Christ. Accept Him as your Savior and let Him carry you through each moment and deliver you to eternal victory.
For more information on beginning a relationship with Jesus Christ, visit morethanwinning.org or call FCA’s National Support Center at 1-800-289-0909.
“Mike understands his role as a professional athlete and a role model, and he takes that very seriously,” said Laurie Boschman, a 14-year NHL veteran and the Senators’ first-ever team captain, who now serves with Hockey Ministries International. “He knows that he does have a responsibility in giving back to his community, but he’s also quite open about his faith, how it’s influenced his life and how it drives him in establishing his priorities.”
In terms of community responsibility, fisher donates all of the proceeds from the Mike Fisher Hockey Camp to several Ottawa-area charities, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Roger’s House, a children’s services organization established in memory of former Senators Assistant Coach Roger Neilson. And although the NHL schedule can keep Fisher on the road for extended periods of time, the satisfaction that comes from being able to give back only increases his desire to reach out.
“I try to do as much as I can and wish I could do more,” he said. “Whenever I’m able to participate in events, meet with kids, or even just lend a helping hand financially, it always seems like I get more out of it than I put into it. But that’s what Christ did—He was all about people, and it’s what He calls us to do, too.”
Hockey teams are a tight-knit bunch, and even closer are those bonded together by a shared pursuit of Christ. These players, whose practice, travel and game schedules often keep them away from Sunday church services, depend on one another for spiritual encouragement.
Each month, usually on an off-day when the Senators aren’t on the road, Boschman leads Ottawa’s team chapel, giving Fisher and his teammates the opportunity to connect with God and each other beyond the predetermined boundaries of the profession.
“We’ve got a great group of guys who meet once or twice a month and point each other toward Christ,” Fisher said. “Everybody in the locker room is in a different place on their journey, and we want to care for them, point them in God’s direction, and show them what it’s like to have a real relationship with Him.”
Former teammate Brian Pothier, who contributes regularly to a blog on the FCA Hockey website, said Fisher’s walk with Christ can and does have a lasting impact on those around him.
“I’ve been a Christian since I started playing in the league, but I always felt as if I was on an island,” said Pothier, who played for Ottawa from 2002 to 2006. “I was pretty alone in my faith and had to grind to stay focused. But when I met Mike, we had an immediate connection because of our faith and common interests. He’s a grounded, solid guy who knows who he is. Whereas most people are caught up in reputation, Mike is more concerned about character. He’ll do the right thing regardless of what people think.”
It was that sort of conviction that led Pothier, when facing a potentially career-threatening concussion in 2008, to turn to his former teammate for wisdom in the midst of uncertainty.
“Mike has a knack for simplifying difficult things,” said Pothier, who recently signed a two-year deal with Genève-Servette HC of the Swiss National League. “His advice really shaped my decision and helped me enter back into the game with confidence and a fearless attitude.”
This summer, Fisher’s mainstream recognition took a big jump when he married internationally known singer/songwriter Carrie Underwood. Despite the couple’s collective fame and the media hype surrounding their nuptials, Fisher said their shared pursuit of Christ has helped him stay grounded and focused while facing both the NHL’s best and the Hollywood paparazzi.
Downplaying the celebrity of the event, the couple chose a wedding ceremony filled with intimacy and reverence that included Scripture passages and worship music and that allowed them to give God the thanks and praise.
“It’s all because of Him,” Fisher said of his marriage. “I’d just been patient, waiting for God to bring the right person into my life, and He provided. And being married is incredible. To have someone there to share your faith and your life with has been awesome. God is the reason Carrie and I are together, and we want to honor Him in every way we can.”
Mike Fisher’s younger brother, Bud, was on FCA’s leadership team at Quinnipiac University (Conn.), even serving as captain his junior and senior years. The younger Fisher was a standout goaltender for the Bobcats from 2005-2009.
Yes, it’s the rare athlete who spends an entire career with one organization, but it’s even more unusual to find one focused on a higher calling amid riches and success.
“Money, fame and fortune are the things that so many people want to achieve, but when you get it, then what?” Fisher said. “For me, it’s about having a relationship with Jesus Christ and sharing it with others. I know that’s my purpose, and I feel alive when I can be around people and share my story with them. I know that’s what I was created to do. There’s nothing else that can fulfill you like that outside of a relationship with Christ. Once you experience that, there’s nothing greater.”
|FCA HOCKEY UPDATE|
It’s been a year since STV last shared how the upstart FCA Hockey Ministry had begun impacting the lives of hockey players for Christ. Since then, the Lord has poured out His blessing on the ministry in jaw-dropping ways, exposing a field—or rink—ripe for the harvest.
In the last year, participation in the FCA Hockey coaches’ ministry has increased 200 percent, new adult and on-campus hockey programs have formed, and camp and clinic rosters have swelled beyond capacity.
“2010 has been a huge year for us,” said Rick Randazzo, FCA Hockey’s national director. “We’ve basically doubled in all of the FCA Four C’s: Coaches, Campus, Camps and Community ministry.”
On campus, FCA Hockey Huddles that began at puckcrazed colleges and universities have spread beyond the hockey programs to include members of other sports. And at this year’s NCAA hockey coaches’ convention, more than 70 coaches and families participated in the FCA Hockey breakfast.
According to Jack O’Halloran, FCA’s national director in Canada, FCA Hockey’s success has helped the ministry as a whole make greater inroads north of the border.
After volunteering as a goalie coach at a Maryland-based hockey camp this summer, O’Halloran felt the Lord’s prompting to focus on FCA Hockey as he breaks international ground.
“If I say ‘FCA Hockey’ up here, people say, ‘Tell me more,’ just because it’s got the word hockey in it,” O’Halloran said. “After that, you’re off to the races.”
Additional staff members have already come on board to help with the growth of FCA Hockey and—in a true leap of faith—Randazzo and his family are preparing to take the ministry on the road full-time in order to reach rinks across the U.S. In August 2011, the Randazzos will begin a four- to five-year missionary trip that will include spending 30 days in each of the 50 states across the country.
“We want to reach people in the hockey community beyond just one week a year during the summer so that we can be there for them and bring real change to their lives,” Randazzo said. “It’s an opportunity to teach them in the ways that Paul did by meeting them where they are, spending time with them and supporting them. Then, after a month in one place, we’ll go to the next city and see how God works there. It will be great to see how He grows the ministry through it.”
For more information on FCA Hockey, visit fcahockey.org.