“Defender of Faith: The Mike Fisher Story” by Kim Washburn
Where have all the role models gone? Who should kids — and particularly Christian kids — look up to these days? Maybe it’s only because the “bad” stories get more press, but it often seems like all of the celebrity “heroes” (singers, actors, athletes, etc) are greedy, vain, or downright criminal! Thankfully, that’s not the case, and there are still some truly worthy heroes to be found.
Mike Fisher is one of them.
This book tells the story of one of the NHL’s grittiest players, currently a Center for the Nashville Predators. It chronicles his life as a child growing up in Peterborough, Ontario, and his rise through the professional hockey ranks to the highest levels of national and international competition. More importantly, it reveals how his life and his career have been impacted by his faith in Jesus Christ.
Defender of Faith stays pretty surface-level as far as the specifics of the Christian faith, choosing to focus on portraying major events in Fisher’s life rather than dwelling on doctrines or denominational issues. This is to be expected, as the book’s target audience is children ages 9-12, as part of the ZonderKidz Biography Series. For a kids’ book, it is excellent; an easy and enjoyable read.
The book’s greatest strength is the way it shows Fisher living out his faith in a winsome manner despite his role in the high-pressure world of professional sports. A naturally quiet and reserved man, Fisher realized the platform that he had to impact lives, and has stepped into the public spotlight (particularly since his marriage last year to country music superstar Carrie Underwood) as an outspoken advocate of Christianity and community involvement.
I was particularly interested in hearing how he reconciled his faith in the gospel with his tough-nosed play, including his willingness to engage in fights on the ice. Fighting in the NHL is often criticized as being an act of aggression, but Fisher sees it (as do I) as a way to protect one’s teammates. The role of protector and defender is very compatible with a Christian view of masculinity, and I was glad to see Fisher debunk the all-too-common idea that Christians must be passive pushovers!
It was also touching to read about Fisher’s relationship with a young boy named Elgin-Alexander Fraser. I was well aware of Fisher’s active role in community service and philanthropy — including running the Mike Fisher Hockey Camp, serving as honorary board president of an organization for terminally ill children called Roger’s House, and his involvement with Hockey Ministries International and the Make-a-Wish Foundation — but did not know that he had cared so much about the children he worked with that he visited this very sick 3-year-old multiple times between games during the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs. When the boy died just as the Ottawa Senators advanced to the Finals (a lifelong dream for every hockey player), Fisher served as a pallbearer for the funeral.
One thing I would like to have read that the book lacked was an account of some of Fisher’s struggles with his faith. In interviews, he has mentioned that there were times in his career when hockey became almost an “idol” to him, and that he had to refocus and get his priorities straight. These are the types of struggles that are common to every Christian, and it would be very beneficial for young people to have the opportunity to see that their role models are also real people with real trials, and to observe how they persevere through these times of difficulty. This is sadly missing from his biography.
Still, this is a great biography for kids, and particularly for those who are hockey fans. As a Christian and a Nashville Predators fan, I am immensely proud to have Mike Fisher on my team, and I look forward to many years of cheering for him both on and off the ice!
Buy the book here, with the knowledge that 100% of all proceeds from the sale of Defender of Faith will go to World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.