By Chad Bonham
Carolina Hurricanes 3, Edmonton Oilers 1: Stanley Cup Finals/Game Seven (June 19, 2006)
Fear isn’t a word you would expect the typical hockey player to talk about but veteran center Matt Cullen isn’t a typical hockey player. In fact, he is transparent enough to talk about some big moments in his life as an athlete and as a father when fear was a very real obstacle that stood in his way.
Take for instance Cullen’s emotions heading into game seven of the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals.
“I prayed more that day than I have my whole life,” he told Christian Sports Journal. “That was a day I leaned on the Lord a lot. It helped me to face some of my fears. I was nervous going into that situation. It was everything I had worked for and dreamed about as a professional athlete.”
Cullen also leaned on one of his favorite Bible verses for encouragement.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
“Having that courage and trust made a big difference put me at ease knowing that somebody was with me,” Cullen continued. “It was just a fun feeling going into the game and being able to trust that it was in good hands. I just played free without any fear or doubt. It was the most fun I’ve ever had playing, which is funny because it was supposed to be the most pressure packed game I’ve ever played in.”
Another Bible passage that has inspired Cullen is the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17:1-58) in which a young boy bravely defeated a powerful Philistine warrior and saved the Israelites from destruction.
“That’s one of the first stories we ever learned as kids,” Cullen explained. “That’s one of the most inspirational stories about courage. David stood in the face of terrible odds and defeated the giant. I love reading that story to my boys. Being courageous is doing something which isn’t easy or fun but you do it because it’s the right thing to do.”
In 2010, Cullen faced a difficult challenge in his personal life while playing for Ottawa where he had been traded during the season. While in Pittsburgh for a playoff game, his wife Bridget went into labor with their third son, Joey.
“I couldn’t get home that night,” Cullen recalled. “He had problems with his lungs. That was a time when I leaned on my faith. I was praying about making sure Joey would make it through each day. Eventually he was fine, but I was very nervous and scared about the situation early on…It’s normal to get nervous about a big game or to get nervous about an important event in your life. Everyone is going to be afraid sometimes. Then you ask yourself, ‘What am I really afraid of?’ Then you can address it because there’s nothing to be afraid of. It helps a lot when you just face it and put it in perspective. It gives you courage to fight through it.”
This devotional is brought to you by Museum of the Bible, a 430,000 square foot museum being constructed 3 blocks south of the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. and is set to open in November of 2017.
(Photos: Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images; Michael Miller)