Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Because It's The Cup!

The Stanley Cup  is the championship trophy awarded annually to the National Hockey League's playoff winner. It is the oldest existing trophy awarded to a victorious professional sports franchise. The first Cup was given out in back in 1893 and  professional teams first became eligible to challenge for it in 1906. Then after a series of league mergers and folds, it was established as the championship trophy of the NHL in 1926. The Montreal Canadians have won the Cup a record 24 times while the Detroit Red Wings have won the Cup 11 times, the most of any United States based NHL team.

This week it was the Pittsburgh Penguins who again won the coveted prize. Captain Sidney Crosby hoisted the Cup for the third time, and two years in a row, after defeating a very competitive Nashville Predators team that had never been to the finals before. But this trophy is arguably the hardest championship to win.That is  largely because of the physical grind and demands of the game itself. There really is nothing quite like the intensity and stress level of playoff hockey because winning the NHL's ultimate prize is so often like a survival of the fittest.

But what makes this trophy even more special is something unlike anything else in all of sports. After the victors celebrate their win, each participating player and coach then has their name physically engraved on the prized hardware itself. Currently, a player must have played at least half of the regular season games for the championship team (provided the player remains with the team when they win the Cup) or have played in at least one game of the Stanley Cup Finals. Typically, the winning athletes in other sports will get a ring and a parade following their championship run. But only in hockey do they each have their name immortalized on the historic trophy. It is an honor unlike any other in sports.

One of my dreams while playing this sport as a youngster was to have my name written on Lord Stanley’s prize. Few who play don't have that fantasy at some point or other. That of course did not happen, and it is safe to safe now that it won’t. Only a select few will ever know that honor and amazing experience. But whenever I see the Cup being hoisted above the heads of each winning player,  I am instantly reminded of another place where names are individually  inscribed. But in this instance it as a place that is infinitely more important than even on the greatest sports trophy of all.

It is called the 'Book of Life’ and is referred to in the Bible in Philippians and repeatedly in the last book of the Bible. In Revelation chapter 20 and verse 12 John writes, "And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life . And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”

It is true that there are but two categories when it comes to the Stanley Cup. There are those who have their names written on it and those who do not. And of far greater importance is that the same holds true with the names that are, or are not, written in God’s Book of Life. But getting one's name written in this spiritual and heavenly book does not require some intense competition.It does not take talent, luck or extreme hard work. But it requires only a single act of saving faith in God’s Son as personal Savior. That is seen in numerous passages of Scripture including one of my all-time favorites. It is Ephesians 2:8-9 and it is the passage that led my own mother to Christ many years ago now. It reads, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
For anyone to have his name placed on Lord Stanley’s Cup takes great talent,  effort, good health and a few key breaks along the way. It is a very special, but very temporary, earthly honor. But getting one’s name inscribed on the Book of Life, and for all eternity, has nothing to do with any personal effort or worldly accomplishments. It is about being saved through God’s grace and by trusting in God's Son - period. . He is the one who did all of the work on the cross to provide the true and ultimate prize of salvation for us all!

"Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."  (Romans 3:24)

Bill Breckenridge