On this Tuesday morning, September 29, 2020, Andrei Vasilevskiy may be the most beloved man alive in the city of Tampa. Over the past month, Vasilevskiy’s stellar goaltending has been paramount to the Lightning’s success in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The goalie’s finest moment came in last night’s championship clinching victory, in which Vasilevskiy shut out the Dallas Stars, blocking 22 shots along the way.
After leading the Lightning in their quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup – the Holy Grail of hockey – some might want to dub him St. Andrei.
Or course, he wouldn’t be the first “St. Andrei.” There is already a saint who bears his name, the apostle Andrew, who served as one of Christ’s 12 Disciples.
We first meet the original St. Andrew in the 1st Chapter of the Gospel of John. Shortly after Baptizing Jesus, John the Baptist saw Jesus passing by again. As He passed by, John shouted; “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Andrew was one of the people who heard John’s words. Beginning at that moment, Andrew left everything and dedicated his life to following Jesus.
Like St. Andrew before him, Andrei Vasileskiy is also one who chose to follow Jesus in his adult years. He told Joe Smith of the Athletic that he didn’t grow up with a religious background and didn’t come to know Christ until later on.
Now, his faith life is extremely important to him. In his locker room stall, he keeps a plaque of St Andrew, reminding him of walk with God. Before each game, he has pregame routine; which involves elaborate stretches, hand-eye coordination drills, and – most importantly – prayer. He says that, while being a goalie being is stressful mentally, being able to pray and think of his faith helps strengthen his focus, providing some much-needed perspective in difficult stretches. He says “It’s getting your brain fixed. It’s preparing my spirit and my mind before the game. A lot of guys are (praying), but nobody probably talks about it. It’s personal, but I respect that.”
In addition to praying, Vasilevskiy and his family also regularly attend church services at St. Gregory’s Russian Orthodox Church in Tampa. He says “In church, I find myself. It’s where I can come and talk to myself, just be with myself one-on-one. Sometimes, I need to set my mind, set my spirit. Especially when it’s tough times. It helps a lot.”
Though now a Stanley Cup Champion and the hero of the city of Tampa, Vasilevskiy knows that none of those accomplishments come close to qualifying him for sainthood. There is only one thing that ever could – trusting in Jesus Christ our Savior, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.