Mike Christie was a defenseman who played over 400 games in the National Hockey league.
Mike Christie sounds like the kind of guy we’d all want in our corner.
Today, at 68, Christie has the memories to look back on, but also reality to confront. Mike needs a kidney transplant. It’s a lot tougher to face than the four joint replacements courtesy of hockey.
“Some days you feel really crappy, you don’t want to do anything,” acknowledges Christie. “You have no energy. You get headaches. Your strength is gone.”
It’s not easy fighting kidney disease. It’s not easy reaching out to make others aware.
“I don’t like to ask for anything,” he said. “At first I was I don’t want to bring attention to myself, but I began to realize that’s the only way you may get a kidney.”
Dawg Nation Founder Martin Richardson recalls, “When I was a kid my dad used to take me to Colorado Rockies games and one of my favorite players was the rough and tumble captain, Mike Christie. To meet Mike and his family has been truly special and to be able to assist in helping them is beyond words.”
Christie was born in Texas while his dad was on the job in the oil business. The Christies moved to Calgary when Mike was five and that’s when he started playing hockey. Years later he went to the University of Calgary…as a football player. He couldn’t get a hockey scholarship.
He played community hockey on a team that won the Provincial championship and two former University of Denver hockey players saw him in action.
“Murray (DU coach) Armstrong called and offered me a scholarship sight unseen off what they said.” Christie was an All-American at DU and loved Armstrong.
Christie played four years for the Pioneers and never got Colorado out of his system. He came back to the state with the hockey version of the Colorado Rockies and when the career was over he returned once again. Today, Mike, his wife Molly and two of their three grown children call Colorado home.
Christie began his NHL career with the California Seals.
“I remember going into Buffalo. They always put these great signs up…all of them would make fun of the other team. They had signs like, ‘TEAL – You’ve got to be kidding!’”
Christie was traded from the Seals to the Rockies and he lasted four seasons, one with the indomitable Don Cherry. “It probably cost me my job with the Rockies because I was pretty close with him,” said Christie who wore the ‘C’ playing for Cherry. “After he left, the owners didn’t give me a chance.”
“I never thought we were bad,” Christie said. “It was a very young team. Not a lot of talent, but we were getting all these good players…Barry Beck…Wilf Paiement…they had a good foundation, but they couldn’t afford to let it build.”
Christie was traded to Vancouver and he retired after that 1980-81 season.
Christie says everything is better in today’s game. The game he remembers the most as a player had moments that would likely never occur now. It was the first game he played against the Flyers in 1974 when he was a rookie with the Seals.
“First shift, Dave ‘The Hammer’ Schultz is out there and I send him down in the corner. We end up fighting. Later I go into the corner with Orest Kindrachuk. I hit him and he came back and high sticked me and we fought.”
Back then there was no glass between the two sides of the penalty box. “Next thing I know he jumps over the low wall and jumps on my back. Bob Kelly, ‘Mad Dog,’ came off the bench and he’s in the box and I’m trying to fight him at the same time.”
Then, after the penalties were over, a sucker punch in the eye from ‘Big Bird’ Don Saleski. Christie remembers he had 43 penalty minutes and the Flyers had three players suspended. Each for six games. Interestingly, Saleski would later play with Christie on the Rockies.
The highlight of his career? Easy. Being selected to play for the United States in the 1976 Canada Cup. “It was the first time pros from all the top hockey countries – Finland, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Canada and the U.S. – could play. A tremendous honor.”
Today, Mike is retired from the golf sales business he worked in for many years after hockey.
And he wonders when the call will come that a donor has been found. The average wait for a suitable organ is 5 years.
“To those who are going through it, hang in there. Make the best of it. Do what you can. Do what they tell you as far as diet, exercise and taking care of yourself and hopefully something will happen.”
Mike’s own battle mirrors what those who play sports believe.
“Wake up with a smile, try to do the best you can and keep a good outlook. Go forward with that. That’s all you can do.”
* * * * *
If you are interested in helping Mike, please call Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center Transplant Center in Denver at 1-800-758-1005.
To learn more about Mike: https://www.facebook.com/findmikechristieakidney
To learn what it takes to be an organ donor: https://www.americantransplantfoundation.org
On February 26, Mike Christie, Dawg Nation hero Dave Repsher and Matt Martinez appeared before the Colorado House Finance Committee in support of The Colorado Living Organ Donor Support Act.
Respher, a flight nurse, was burned over 90% of his body in a Flight For Life helicopter crash in 2015. Repsher needed and ultimately received a kidney from Matt Martinez last year. Martinez faced financial hardships from missing work without compensation.
The bill passed 8-3 and now goes to the House Appropriations Committee.
* * * * *
Photos courtesy of Lisa Christie.