Eric Weinrich, who last wore #8 for the Vancouver Canucks, was a good, solid NHL defenseman who was tough, scored key goals, and was a good leader on and off the ice. He has a good eye on the ice (maybe the fact that he wored a yellow-tinted visor had something to do with it), as he not only knew where his own players were, he had a keen awareness of where the opposing players were, too. The Blues, who toward the end of the 2003-2004 season, were desperate for a player like him, as they had been struggling with a lack of scoring, a lack of healthy defense, and had faced not making the playoffs for the first time in twenty-five years. Getting him was one of the best moves they made that season. He was tied for first on the team with a plus-12 rating and the Blues were 13-8-4-1 with him in the lineup and went 7-0-2-1 when he scored a point. He was one of the key reasons the Blues did scrape into the post season in 2004 to keep their playoff streak alive. After the Blues' dismal 05-06 outing, however, the streak was broken. This was one of the reasons that at the 2006 trade deadline he was dealt to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a 2006 third round draft pick and defenseman Tomas Mojzis.

Stats

Eric was born on December 19, 1966, in Roanoke, Virginia. He stands at 6'1" and shoots left. The Blues had acquired him from Philadelphia in exchange for a fifth round draft pick on February 9, 2004. Through the 2005-2006 season, Weinrich racked up 70 goals, 318 assists for a total of 388 points in 1157 games played. His 825 penalty minutes shows he can get physical with the best of them but is not stupid enough to take too many penalties. As far as the playoffs are concerned, he's played in 81 post season tilts and has garnered 6 goals and 23 assists for 29 points to go along with 67 penalty minutes. He was New Jersey's third choice, 32nd overall, in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft.

History/Highlights

As early as 8 years old, Eric knew he wanted to play hockey. That is when he told his parents Jack and Sandra Weinrich that he wanted to play in the Olympics and the NHL. He didn't get serious about the notion of playing professional hockey, though, until he saw scouts at his high school games at North Yarmouth Academy.

In Eric's early days he played in the NCAA for the University of Maine and scored a college career high 12 goals and 32 assists in 1986-87. He was named to the Hockey East First All-Star Team and was selected to the NCAA East Second All-Star Team following the that season. The next season he only played eight games for Maine and moved on from there the next year to the Utica Devils of the AHL.

In the 1988-1989 season he played his first NHL game for the Devils on January 29 versus the Minnesota North Stars. It wasn't until the next season, though, on March 25, 1990 where he scored his first NHL goal at Buffalo. His first NHL point and assist was on February 17 at Toronto. In the 90-91 season he was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team, the first Devil to ever receive NHL postseason honors. It wasn't until the 92-93 season that he played for the Hartford Whalers and did well for them, scoring 36 points (7G, 29A). The next season he split between the Whalers and the Chicago Blackhawks. In the lock out shortened 94-95 season he rode with the 'Hawks as they advanced to the Western Conference Finals. However, it wasn't until the next post season where he really had a playoff game to remember where he posted four points (1G, 3A) in Game Three of the Western Conference. Quarterfinals on April 21 at Calgary.

Weinrich stayed with the 'Hawks until the 1998-1999 season where he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens after starting out the season with a lowly four points. He had a decent 2 1/2 season run with the Habs and eventually ended up having a cup of tea with the Boston Bruins toward the end of the 00-01 season (he was acquired by Boston from Montreal in exchange for Patrick Traverse on February 21). From there he moved on to the Philadelphia Flyers and spent the better part of three seasons there. In 2001-2002 Eric posted a career high five-game point streak from December 31 - January 10, racking up seven assists over the span. In the 2002-2003 season he achieved a feat not too many other players have and skated in his 1,000th NHL Game on March 31 at Pittsburgh (only 189 players before that had reached that plateau). And as mentioned earlier, toward the end of the 2003-2004 he ended up in the Gateway City. He recorded his first goal as a Blue on February 22 at Chicago, which was the last game former Blues coach Joel Quenneville coached before he was fired. And as mentioned before, in the 05-06 season he was dealt to Vancouver. He had scored 1 goal and 16 assists for the Blues that year but picked up no points at all in the games he played for the Canucks - who barely missed the playoffs.

After 18 years in the NHL and 9 World Championships for Team USA - the most of any American-born player - in July, 2006, Eric announced his retirement from the league. The newly-renamed Anaheim Ducks named him to their coaching staff in their American Hockey League affiliate in Portland, Oregon on August 7, 2006.

Background

This one makes me laugh: his nickname is "Weino" and he collects wine (sort of an odd hobby for a hockey player, isn't it?). This one is bewildering: his favorite scent is that of the locker room.

Yes, Eric Weinrich is a true athlete.

Shortly after joining the Blues, the The Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore incident happened and Weinrich sounded off on it, writing an editorial in USA Today, which was in response to a controversial article written by a female columnist Christine Brennan (http://usatoday.com/sports/columnist/brennan/2004-03-10-brennan_x.htm). The entire editorial by Eric, which was very good, is below:

Ms. Brennan, as a current player in the league, I took exception to your column ("If NHL vanished, who'd miss it?" March 11) about the NHL. I guess you haven't noticed that the league is in the midst of one of the closest playoff races in its history. I realize as an American that hockey is not as popular as women's golf or bowling, but it is a billion-dollar-a-year-revenue sport, and the fans are still coming. Trust me, as in baseball, people will miss it.

I will definitely not defend Todd Bertuzzi's actions. I feel the same as all people: It was a lack of respect for another player and has no place in sports. I can also tell you that in some 1,000 games as a player, I have only witnessed one incident that was viewed on ESPN's "Greatest Hits," and believe me, it was hard to swallow. In some 80 years of NHL games, less than 10 such incidents have occurred in a very rough sport. Yes, it is 10 too many, and every foul has tarnished the game.

For the league to get a comparable TV deal in the next bargaining agreement, these types of infractions must be eliminated or dealt with in the harshest of manners. Bertuzzi will suffer the ultimate pain of missing the rest of the season but also the reminder of his actions for at least the rest of his career. Playing against him is no fun, but he is not a goon and does not have that reputation. But now he will be labeled as a menace by every media person on the continent.

My real issue with your column was the people you talked to about the incident. I'm very disappointed in the response by USA Hockey's spokesman. His assessment of what happened and how it will relate to young players is blown way out of scale. Will you see a youngster chasing down an opponent and hitting him? Not a chance. And if you do, how have the parents or youth hockey organizations failed to help players understand the severity of these actions?

Of course we are role models. But when kids see Britney Spears smoking or partying, do they automatically believe that is the right thing to do?

I respect Mike Eruzione as much as all American-born kids, and I still believe that (1980 Olympic hockey) game may be the greatest sports moment in history. But his reference to international hockey just doesn't apply.

I played in the Olympics and in many world championships. I think I may have the most international games for a U.S.-born player. I know about these types of tournaments. They only last about two weeks, with no more than 10 games. It is intense, and every game means something as does almost every play and penalty. Also, the majority of the players are European and play in far less physical leagues with far less physical players. There are fights, but they are few and far between.

The physical style of play does not work well on Olympic-size ice because finishing a check takes you out of the play too often. Any fight results in a game suspension, and most players don't risk the chance of missing one game because of the short length of the tournament. Maybe this would deter NHL players from fighting as much if they instituted a rule like this but with more games added.

People often overlook retribution that takes place in other sports. In baseball, there are far more bench-clearing brawls than in the past. How do these start? Beanballs or "brush-back" pitches. When I hear that a pitcher says he lost control of a pitch, I find that hard to believe when he can hit a spot late in the game at any time. When he throws at a player, the next inning the opposing pitcher throws at one of their guys. This is the code in baseball.

How often do you see quarterbacks being drilled into the ground by 300-pound linemen? Ask them if they let up on a quarterback or are they trying to knock them out of the game.

In a culture where WWE is more popular than the skill presented on a hockey rink, I agree sport as theater, like wrestling, may show better. It is sad to me that failure and misfortune, deserving or not, lead the stories in most media outlets. I'm embarrassed that this is what sells in the culture I live in. This is why Miracle is received so well by athletes, because it is a story of accomplishment, not failure.

Bertuzzi is sorry. I believe him. He is paying a major price for a major infraction. We all pray for a quick recovery for Steve Moore. Will something like this ever happen again in hockey? The chances are that it will, because the game is so fast and the players are so strong, things will happen, tempers will flare.

Of course I am biased, and I think all you have to do is watch a game live to understand the excitement of hockey. In the future I hope you can talk to players, and I am confident you will get a different perspective. Let's hope it doesn't take another for a response like mine. I'd rather read about some of the more enlightening stories you have reported on in the past.

- Eric Weinrich, St. Louis Blues

Sources: www.centralmaine.com, www.stlblues.com, www.usatoday.com

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