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About Fish

A Hope and a Future

Ottawa Senator Mike Fisher, part of the team's bright future, has hope in something besides hockey.
by Lois Thomson

You really can't blame Ottawa Senators fans for being a little disgruntled during the offseason. After all, for the past 2 years their team finished near the top of the NHL standings, and both times they were defeated by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs—last year in four straight games. And then this past summer, Alexei Yashin—the franchise's first overall entry draft pick—was traded to the New York Islanders following a bitter contract dispute.

So why should the fans look forward to the future? Well, why not?

They picked up two solid players—Zdeno Chara and Bill Muckalt—and a first-round draft choice in 2001 from the Islanders in exchange for Yashin, and they have a lot of young, quality players.

Like 21-year-old Mike Fisher.

The 6' 1", 193-pound Fisher, who played his junior hockey in Sudbury, Ontario, in the Ontario Hockey League, was Ottawa's second-round draft pick in 1998. Before joining the Senators in 1999, he played an additional year in Sudbury and finished the season with 100 points. Unfortunately, the fans haven't had much chance to see what he can do in the NHL.

Fisher suffered two injuries in his first two seasons with the Senators, injuries that forced him to miss a considerable amount of playing time. In a December 1999 game against Boston, he took a hit on the inside of his knee and missed the rest of the year after having reconstructive surgery on his ACL. He played in just 32 games. Then last season, he sat out 22 contests with a shoulder injury that occurred in a match-up against the New York Rangers. On October 22, 2001, he played in his 100th game for the Sens.

It's frustrating for a young player to miss so much time so early in his career, but Fisher has handled it well. "My faith has been pretty instrumental through it all," he says. "I made the Ottawa Senators at the age of 19. I didn't expect to make it that young, and everything was looking great. But then [the injuries] happened and it makes you understand that Jesus is really in charge. It's like He says, 'You don't take the reins, I do.' He's really in charge of my career and my life. And with Jesus on your side, He's there for you, to comfort you."

Fisher placed his faith in Christ at a young age. "I grew up in a Christian family. We went to church every Sunday," he recalls. "When I was 6 years old, I made the step of faith to accept Him into my heart. I remember I prayed with my mom before I went to school. I didn't want to wait any longer."

Fisher said his faith helped to sustain him when he left his home in Peterborough, Ontario, at age 17 to play hockey in Sudbury. "It was tough moving away. I didn't have any Christian friends on the team, and I didn't live with a Christian family. But I grew up in such a great family—they were very instrumental in my life. When you get older, you have to make your own decisions. You have to learn for yourself what's important. And they really helped influence me from an early age.

"When I look back on my hockey career—and I don't have to look back too far because I'm not that old," he adds with a chuckle, "you think of the highlights like getting your first goal or your first win, and you think that's neat. But I know the most important thing for me is having my faith."

Heading into only his third season, Fisher hasn't experienced too many surprises in the NHL. "The main difference is that in junior hockey I was going to school with my teammates. But here, a lot of guys are married and have families, so on off days they want to get away and spend time with them."

"The past few years have been a learning experience for me," Fisher says. "Toward the end of last season I was playing a little better. I scored quite a few points in Junior and I'm hoping to get more this year. But coming into the NHL at 19, I didn't expect to pick up a lot of points right away."

With Yashin gone, the Senators are left with only one center—Radek Bonk—with any considerable experience. But Fisher was looking forward to the chance to prove himself. "I'm definitely excited," he said before the season started. "It was sad to see such a great player leave the team, but I guess it was inevitable. And it's a good opportunity for me. We have Bonk, who is probably Number 1 now, and we got Jason Spezza in the draft. So maybe I'm Number 2." Indeed, that is where Fisher appears on the Senators' depth chart among centers.

Ottawa selected Spezza with the draft pick they got from the Islanders in exchange for Yashin. Rated the Number 1 North American skater and ranked second overall by The Hockey News, the 18-year-old Spezza has a lot of potential.

Fisher, however, is content to trust his future to the Lord. "One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:11," he says. " 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.' It's great having God to rely on, knowing He has a plan for us. We don't have to worry what's going to go on in our future or what's going to happen down the road. God's Word also says, 'Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own' " (Matthew 6:34).

"You just have to play your hardest, and if you're on God's team, that's the only team that's important." Then he quickly adds, "And Ottawa too."

Senators fans can be happy about that.

Freelance writer Lois Thomson lives in Pittsburgh.

Copyright © 2002 Sports Spectrum.

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