Reprint from 2008
While my ideal job involves being a sports writer, my current job pays the mortgage. So in my spare time, I decided to take a crack at an interview and write up. It doesn't hurt that a former NHL defenseman is a family friend. Enjoy!Catching Up With Eric Weinrich: Part Ihttp://www.phillysportsforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=20499
Imagine spending the majority of your adult life as a defenseman in the National Hockey League (NHL). In 17 seasons, you’ve found yourself playing for eight teams and moving your family across the United States and Canada on multiple occasions. And just when you think your career has reached the end, one more offer is dangled in front of you — one last chance to chase the opportunity to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup. The downside, you’d need to move your family from the city they’ve called home for over five years to Calgary. What would you do?
If you are former NHL defenseman Eric Weinrich, you chose your family and a chance to finally settle down in one place for the rest of your life.
“I had made a decision before that offer that I would only consider offers from teams close to home (Portland, Maine), or close to New Jersey,” says Weinrich. “When this offer came up, it was only attractive because the offer came from one of my favorite coaches, Darryl Sutter. We spent a day thinking it over, but ultimately it came down to moving again.”
For Weinrich, the decision was made quickly and he opted to turn down the offer from Calgary and move his family back to Maine, the place he grew up and where the road to the NHL began for him.
Born in Virginia, but raised in Maine, the 41-year-old Weinrich credits his father's Sunday hockey games on a frozen lake as the motivation to peak his interest in hockey. At the age of 21, Weinrich was drafted 32nd overall by the New Jersey Devils. But this was not his first brush with the NHL draft.
A few years earlier, Dave McNab, a scout for the Hartford Whalers (now the Carolina Hurricanes) and good friend of Weinrich's, called to inform Weinrich that he'd been selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the eighth round of the draft. Weinrich's birthday had been listed incorrectly, making the ineligible Weinrich appear eligible for the draft. Weinrich doesn't make a big deal of the situation.
"I was flattered when I heard, but my friend Dave said it was an insult to my ability to be taken so late in the draft. I was still excited."
During his 17 years in the NHL, Weinrich played for the Devils, Hartford Whalers, Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks.
Though his NHL career came to an end after the 2005-2006 season, his career as an assistant coach and player for the Portland Pirates in the American Hockey League (AHL) was just beginning.
In his “spare time”, Eric took some time to sit down and answer questions from the members of PhillySportsForums.com.PSF:
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all of our questions. We really appreciate it.
Okay, I already know the answer to this, but it’s something you’re “famous” for, so let’s get it out of the way. The yellow visor — why do you wear it? How does the game look through it? Does it really help your vision all that much?EW:
My ex-teammate, Bill Huard, was working for Oakley. He told me they were testing a new visor color — yellow, based on glasses made for shooting. I tried it and found it made no difference, but just continued to use it. Not much of a story, huh?Playing/Coaching in the American Hockey LeaguePSF:
What was it like transitioning from the NHL to the AHL? Describe some of the differences you see (both on and off the ice). Why did you decide to play again after retiring?EW:
Well, everything is just less grand — hotels, travel, food, arenas and of course the talent. The major difference in that respect (the talent) is the age of players. Average age [is now] around 23. These guys are here to develop and hopefully make the jump to the NHL. The reality is, though, that most won’t make it. The players here are prospects, and they are in this league to either improve on a skill they lack, or they will play here for their career because they don’t have a skill that would put them in the NHL.
I was not ready to give up playing, but when I took the coaching job, I never thought Anaheim would consider me for a playing position in Portland. I always thought it would be fun to play in Maine.PSF:
How do you handle bench duties when playing and coaching? Does an assistant coach handle the ice time and line changes?EW:
When I’m a player I’m only a player. That was made quite clear when I took the playing position. However, the coaches expect me to help in a mentor capacity.PSF:
Other then practice and games, what do you do to stay physically able to play during the season? Does your routine now differ from when you played in the NHL?EW:
Bike, bike, bike! I live on my bike in the summer and that has helped tremendously. I did follow the Anaheim summer program this summer, modified of course. I do not lift weights as much as I did when I was in the NHL.PSF:
You currently play on a team with Bobby Ryan, who is originally from Philadelphia. What do you think of his development so far? And of course, since this interview is geared toward Philadelphia fans, do you think he’d fit in with the Flyers “goon squad” if the Flyers were to acquire him?EW:
Bobby Ryan is one of those rare talents as an athlete. He possesses puck-handling skills that only a minority of the sport will ever have. He is a very young pro and is learning the ins and outs of the pro life, but has an edge to his personality that has helped with his transition. I am confident that he will be a very good NHL player when he realizes his potential. He has already dominated the AHL game at times, and this is a sign that you are ready for the next step. He could play on any team in the NHL, whatever the style.Playing in the National Hockey LeaguePSF:
What was your favorite city to play in and why? (We won’t be offended if you don’t say Philadelphia – well, not that offended.)EW:
Well, that is a tough question, because do you mean to live and play in or just play a game in? I have been fortunate to play for some of the most storied franchises in the history of the game. Chicago was our (the Weinrich family) first real big time sports team. The teams I played for had good success and we had a strong fan following. We would actually draw equal to the Jordan-era Bulls’ teams. My career definitely took off in Chicago.
Then, it was on to Montreal — maybe the Yankees of hockey. Walking down the street the first morning in Montreal, at least half the people welcomed me to the city! We were like movie stars in that town. The arena was always buzzing. The games were like going to the theatre for a lot of the fans. Everyone dressed up. It was a scene. And the fans were very knowledgeable — applauding fine play. Living there was another experience — as close to Europe as you will get in North America. That, and the history behind the team — the former greats and the many Cups — made Montreal an unforgettable place to play.
For my family, Philly probably had their best memories — and for me, some of my best [memories] as a player. We had three solid years as a team, and probably the best coach I will ever have, Hitch (Ken Hitchcock). The former players from the past teams were great to have around the team and the city. It is hard to argue against Philly being one of the great sports cities in the world. I have never seen people go to more events than I did here. My family will always treat Philly like home, and I will remember those days as some of my fondest as a player.PSF:
What was your favorite moment as an NHL player? As a Flyer?EW:
I would say winning my first playoff round in Chicago. That is what you play for the whole season.In Philly, the seventh game win against Toronto [in 2002-2003]. What a tough series but it was sweet to win at home.PSF:
During the playoffs, do you think a large number of players work through pain that goes unreported? If you had to guess, what percentage of players do you think are playing through pain/serious injury? Can you think of any examples that you can share?EW:
It would be tough to say what the percentage is because guys are playing hurt all year. The injuries that occur in the playoffs are often overlooked by the players because they don’t want to miss a game. I have seen some guys play with some very nasty injuries, but if they are too serious, you just can’t play. And if it is in an early round, the chance of causing more harm for a later round may deter a player from playing through it.
Two stick out in my mind. Ken Daneyko was struck in the hand and broke it badly. His hand turned black and blue and swelled tremendously. He actually had the trainer tape his stick to his glove so he wouldn’t drop it.
In the Toronto series I mentioned before, Dmitri Yushkevich separated his shoulder and required a cortisone shot to play. It was nasty to look at, and having a slightly separated shoulder that year, I could not imagine the pain he was playing through.PSF:
Who was your favorite defensive partner over your years in the NHL? Who was your favorite defensive partner on the Flyers?EW:
Another tough question. Each guy I played with made an impression on me. Bruce Driver was my first partner in the NHL. He was a good mentor for me. Of course, some of the guys were tremendous players. Scott Stevens, a Hall of Famer, would be right up there. Kim Johnsson was a very talented guy, and made it easy to play.
I guess the guy that sticks out the most would be Chris Chelios. He was such an inspiration. And what a role model to have in your locker room everyday. He still is.PSF:
Chris Therien, your former teammate, was known for “controlling” Jaromir Jar whenever the Flyers faced him. Is there any forward you've played against that you felt you were always at the top of your game when defending against him?EW:
Anyone good. As a defenseman, you always needed to be at the top of your game when you were facing Jagr, [Pat] LaFontaine or [Mario] Lemieux or anyone of that stature.PSF:
We all know practical jokes go on in the locker room. What was the best prank you’ve seen over the years?EW:
The best one I have seen is when a new player, usually a rookie, is told he is leading the team on the ice. So he goes running out for warm ups and the rest of the guys don’t follow him. ********************************Come back later to read part II: Playing for the Philadelphia Flyers and the National Hockey League Today