Spring 2021 Magazine

Minnesota Wild's Eric Staal guided by faith as he hits prestigious 1,000-point mark

Slapping a one-timer over the shoulder of Chicago goalie Robin Lehner on a first-period power play Sunday night, the Minnesota Wild’s Eric Staal became the 89th NHL player all-time to reach the 1,000 point mark, and one of only six currently active players. The goal gave him 26 points over the first 34 games of the 2019-20 season, his 16th season in the NHL.

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“It’s difficult sometimes to reflect in the middle of a season and a career,” Staal said after the game, which Chicago won 5-3. “You know, four numbers is a lot of numbers and I’m obviously proud of that. I couldn’t have got to this number or this level without a ton of help from so many people. That something I reflect on a lot in this kind of moment. It would’ve been nicer in a win but hopefully a few more left ahead of me for the next couple of years.”

That the 35-year-old is talking about playing a couple more years is a testament to his toughness. Staal was the second overall pick in the 2003 NHL Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes, and since that time has played the second-most games in the NHL (1,208) and logged the most minutes among all NHL forwards (23,716 minutes, 45 seconds), per The Athletic.

Also the oldest of four brothers who have all earned NHL contracts, Staal has been vocal about the importance of faith all the while. In an interview Eric and his brother, Jordan, did for Promise Keepers Canada, Eric said, “Any time you move away from home — especially at a young age — you just never know what to expect. I was only 15 when I first [started playing on a junior hockey team], but was fortunate enough to get involved with the chapel program there which set me on my way.

“Obviously nowadays our schedules are pretty jam-packed. My wife and I do enjoy getting together with others outside of church for small group studies or reading sessions, but sometimes that doesn’t work out with me having games and practices nearly every day. So just sitting down with some teammates and the chapel leader is another great alternative if I can’t make it out to church back home.”

When the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup in 2006, Eric towed the giant trophy to his church, Christian Reformed Church, in Thunder Bay, Ontario, for the congregation to see. And his hometown has been able to see many of his hockey accolades. He is one of only 29 players in the world to enter the “Triple Gold Club,” an unofficial designation for players who have won a Stanley Cup trophy, as well as a World Championship and Olympic gold medal with their national teams. Staal led the Canadian team to a gold medal in the 2007 World Championships and 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

While Staal’s career has been both successful and hectic, he’s said he always tries to make time to stay centered in God’s Word.

“Hockey season is always a busy time — it’s a long year and sometimes it’s tough to find that study time, but when I do it’s always great and refreshing,” Staal told Promise Keepers. “It’s a chance to try to live our lives for God and show our fans and teammates that there are better things up above. It just becomes a way of life after enough time.”

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