During his second season in the NHL, when he was with the Colorado Avalanche, center Matt Duchene started writing messages to himself on the tape at the top of his stick before every game. He had done it inconsistently in the Ontario Hockey League and decided to make it part of his routine.
There is typically a reference to a country song, along with abbreviations reminding Duchene of the most important people and places in his life. At the bottom of the message is another reference, this one to a Bible verse: Philippians 4:13, which says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (NKJV). He also draws a cross.
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Now entering his 13th NHL season, and his third year with the Nashville Predators, Duchene still follows his tradition.
“Obviously, that’s the tool of my trade,” Duchene said about his stick in a 2019 interview with Sports Illustrated. “It just puts me in a really good spot mentally and it helps me play with all my emotions and gratefulness. I think that helps me perform at my best.”
After spending his first eight years with the Avalanche, Duchene was part of in-season trades during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, sending him to Ottawa and Columbus. A free agent at the end of 2018-19, he looked to God for guidance.
“I prayed (during the last year of his contract), ‘Lord just open a door for me and I’ll walk through it. That’s all I’m asking. Just make it blatantly obvious what the right decision is to be in,’” Duchene told The Unshakeable Foundation. “The whole way along, there were like flashing signs of what I was supposed to do. I just gave it to Him, and He showed me the way.”
His prayers were answered in the form of a seven-year, $56 million contract with the Predators.
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Duchene arrived in Nashville coming off one of the most productive years of his career, scoring a career-high 31 goals and tying a career best with 70 points in 73 games with the Senators and Blue Jackets. He produced 13 goals and 29 assists in 66 games during the 2019-20 campaign. Last season, he missed more than a month due to injury and appeared in only 34 games.
Heading into the 2021-22 season, Duchene and the Predators are hoping he returns to the form that saw him register at least 50 points in seven of his first 10 seasons in the league.
His faith has helped him navigate the low points in his career and form a deeper relationship with God. Duchene works with a Christian organization called Hockey Ministries International, attending pregame chapels and other events HMI hosts.
He was introduced to Christianity by his parents and grandparents, all of whom are believers. Growing up in a Christian home made Duchene view hockey as a gift and want to use it as a platform to glorify God.
“The one thing I always believed was that God gave me this gift of being able to play this game and I needed to give that gift back to the world, and give it to the ones I loved and that sacrificed for me to be here today,” he said on stage during HMI’s 2016 All-Star Breakfast.
The Predators begin the season Thursday night in search of an eighth consecutive playoff appearance. They host the Seattle Kraken at 8 p.m. ET in what will be their opponent’s second game in franchise history.
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