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Faithful Fisher
NHL player Mike Fisher wants to set an example. He considers his determination and work ethic a gift of God, and continually tries to use his abilities for God’s glory.

Every young boy dreams of being a hockey star. Of having his moment on the ice, surrounded by screaming fans and fainting women; of making time stand still with his lightening shot, and hearing the crowd go wild as the puck slides into the net, securing the win.

Mike Fisher
Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

Similarly, every NHLer dreams of winning the playoffs. Of having his “day” with the Cup – 24 hours of relishing the hard-earned victory.

When asked what he would have done with the Cup had Ottawa won, Mike Fisher, who was recently signed by the Sens to a five-year contract extension, barely hesitates: “I would take it to my cottage near Peterborough and have a party with family and friends.”

For this particular NHL center, family is top of the list. After all, it was his parents that helped nurture and develop the young star into the forceful forward he is today. Yet they didn’t only train him to work hard; Fisher’s parents taught him the importance of faith.

“I grew up in a Christian family and decided to follow Christ at a young age,” explains the feisty two-way player. “My parents were amazing; but I was a fairly good kid,” the 27-year-old adds with a smile.

Faith comes easily when encouraged at home, but with instant success on the ice – not to mention adoring fans and more money that he could have imagined – Fisher’s beliefs were tested his first few years in the big leagues.

“When I was 19, I had to learn a lot. I searched God out and realized the kind of way I wanted to live. By 22 I had decided.” In the meantime, he partied and drank, still grappling with how to handle the success.

Fisher credits his cousin for guiding him back to the narrow path. “He’s my spiritual mentor, and has been a big influence in my life. I still have ups and downs, but I know God has a plan and a purpose for me. I have a lot of people who’ve helped me; I learned from the pressures.”

Happiness, he’s realized, cannot be bought. “When you have money, it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s a daily relationship with Christ and through that comes a lot of peace and experiencing God. I hadn’t really done that (before). When you get a taste of it, there’s nothing like it.”

To keep himself centered on what really matters, Fisher has developed a Foundation through which he gives back to various charities – “Because God’s provided me with it all.”

It’s this deep-rooted faith that stabilizes the six-foot-one, 203-pound centre when facing disappointments such as this year’s playoffs.

When queried on ‘what went wrong’ with Anaheim, Fisher admits, “The first couple of games we struggled; we got away from our game plan a bit, and they had a very strong defense. We weren’t as patient as we could have been and we stopped doing what we should have been. We just couldn’t get things going offensively.”

He pauses, then acknowledges, “We have to give them credit. Anaheim has a great team; we do too, but sometimes you come short and have got to learn from it.”

Fisher doesn’t believe in regrets. He prefers to live fully in the present, trusting God to make things right. “If you keep God your focus, you learn it’s more about Him and not about me. We’re always being told how good we are, but you can’t let it get to you too much.”

Nevertheless the power forward purposely strives to increase his skills. When asked how he’s improved over the past year, Fisher comments, “I got stronger and more patient with the puck, but I’m always trying to get better: To be in top shape, be prepared and give everything I have every night.”

He’s certainly earned enough ice time, particularly compared to his initial year in the league. As Ottawa’s second-round draft pick in 1998, Fisher suffered injuries in his first three NHL seasons which forced him to sit out for most of the season. Yet even then he credited faith to being instrumental in getting him through.

“You learn the most going through different pressures and slumps. It’s about balancing our life and using faith to build character.”

There’s no questioning Fisher’s character. As head of Epistle Sports Ministries, Peterborough’s David Fisher affirms his nephew’s integrity. “Mike is admired and respected by his employer, his team-mates, his fans and the community at large: How do I know? They’ve told me!”

In addition, David remarks, Mike demonstrates his love for Christ by sacrificing his summers. “He always has time for others, especially children with various challenges.”

… he devotes his vacation to training young stars in both Peterborough and Kingston, Ontario.

Growing up, Fisher knew the value of hockey camps. Now he devotes his vacation to training young stars in both Peterborough and Kingston, Ontario. The camps are run through Hockey Ministries International.

“Some kids come from no faith background, so I want to tell them about what God’s done in my life and share the things He’s helped me with.”

The children adore their humble NHL teacher, not unlike Fisher looking up to Laurie Boschman, Stu Grimson and Mark Osborne when he was young.

“It helps because, seeing Christian players as a kid, you realize you can still have faith in God and be a tough player.”

There’s no doubt that Fisher is aggressive; he fights for his team, and destroys any implications that Christians are soft.

“I just try to play as hard as I can,” he explains. “I’m not a dirty player by any means, but I’m going to stick up for team-mates if I have to. I think God gave me some unique abilities, and I’m trying to use them the best that I can.”

Fisher is continuing to play hard and stay focused, despite a few management changes. With former head coach Bryan Murray stepping up to the plate as GM, and John Paddock taking the team under his expert wing, Fisher is confident the team will continue improving upon their strategies and hopefully going on to win the 2008 Cup.

In the meantime he’ll continue to fellowship at his Ottawa church, The Bridge, and to spend time in prayer and devotions with fellow team-mate Dean McAmmond.

“I try to be an example. I think my determination and work ethic is a gift, and I try to use all of my abilities for God’s glory. That is my focus.”

Emily Wierenga is an author based in Blyth, Ontario.

Originally published in Canadian Sports Magazine, May 2008.




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