Friday, February 6, 2015

Eric Weinrich Jersey Card

Sometimes I like to mess with people's minds. Acquaintances of mine over at La Vie Est Une Puck undertook the task of listing every captain from every NHL franchise, and when they got to the Montréal Canadiens, I blew their minds with this card of Eric Weinrich:
The card, from Pacific's 2001-02 Pacific set (#2 of the Authentic Game-Worn Jersey insert sub-set, numbered 69/510), shows him wearing the captain's ''C'' in the Habs' classic red uniform, with the Boston Bruins' logo at the bottom, which is fitting because he ended the previous season with the Bruins, but also kind of not because he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers the summer before the set was even printed.

But out of respect for the accuracy of the swatch, Pacific opted to show him as a member of the Canadiens, because that's where the white jersey swatch was from (and the back picture shows him as a Bruin, making for the ultimate Frankencard):
For those of you who are wondering, Weinrich was one of many interim captains during the Saku Koivu captaincy (1999-2009), as Captain Courage was often injured; Weinrich served for a few weeks, early in the 2000-01 season. Much has been said about Koivu's 10-year/9-season tenure as captain, and I will never diminish anything he accomplished and everything he inspired and brought out of people, but unlike the person whom he shares the Habs' longevity record for the position (Jean Béliveau, 10 full seasons), the season lost to the lock-out and his numerous injuries that brought forth countless part-time replacements might warrant putting an asterisk next to his name in the team's record books.

But back to Weinrich, the 32nd-overall pick of the 1985 NHL draft who was a solid prospect in the New Jersey Devils organization for six years before becoming a full-time NHLer, even going as far as posting a point-per-game average with the AHL Utica Devils in 1989-90 and winning the Eddie Shore Award as the league's best defenseman, prompting every card company to feature him in their rookie sets for the following season.

He had two solid seasons in the 30-plus point range with the Devils before being packaged with Sean Burke in a deal that led them to the Hartford Whalers, where he again had another solid season (7 goals and 36 points in 1992-93), before getting traded to the Chicago Blackhawks, where he took an alright offensive game and added near-perfect positioning and shot-blocking to his arsenal, which would come in handy when age caught on and he slowed down a little.

Not that he wasn't a decent player, he had some speed despite not being spectacularly fast, he made hard wrist-shot-type passes that were pretty accurate, and he kept his game simple enough to earn some powerplay time (decent passing, and a low shot through traffic in front of the net) and eventually the penalty-kill as well, where blocking shots and passes became his specialty.

All of those skills were put to use when the Hawks sent him to Montréal with Jeff Hackett for Jocelyn Thibault and Dave Manson. God those Habs teams were terrible. 1998-2001 were awful years to be a Habs fan, and for the first time in 60 years, not every game was sold out at the then-Molson Centre. Season-ticket holders were giving away their tickets. It was the Dead Puck Era, the last Expansion Era, and the local team (owned by an American) sucked - had those factors lasted just a little bit longer, we may have seen a decline in the team's religious-like following, popularity, who would have perhaps even contemplated a move to Cleveland again (the article herein reads even better when doing it with the voice and accent of a 1930s newscaster in your head).

After the Habs came the Bruins, in a trade between the league's two most storied rivals - and Weinrich's favourite team growing up. Unfortunately for him, his stay in Boston barely lasted 22 games, followed by two and a half years with the Flyers, roughly a year with the St. Louis Blues, and the same amount of time with the Vancouver Canucks.

After his time in Vancouver, he signed on as an assistant coach with the AHL's Portland Pirates, only to suit up for them for two seasons, then resume his coaching duties for three years after that. The guy kept his passion alive until the very end.

He's currently very busy as a pro scout with the Buffalo Sabres, who are likely in the process of trading their veterans for youngsters, so their scouts are probably the hardest-working bunch in the league at the moment.

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