What's in a name?
Owning a jersey with the name Parise, Nystrom, Murphy, Gainey, Steen, Stastny, Campbell, Dunlop or Tambellini sewn on the back would be a coup for most hockey collectors. For others, it's a birthright.
Eric Nystrom, Jeff Tambellini, Alexander Steen, Gregory Campbell, Steve Gainey, Patrick Murphy, Yan Stastny, Connor Dunlop and Zach Parise are talented hockey players who are the sons of former NHL players who are trying to make a name for themselves without having to rest upon their fathers' laurels.
While they were born into a hockey family, they've quickly learned there are no guarantees that they will follow in their fathers' footsteps and play in the NHL.
"The journey begins now," said Eric Nystrom said after the Calgary Flames chose him with the 10th overall pick at the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. "The door is only open, it's only if I step through. So, it's going to be interesting to see what happens."
Once he gets to the NHL, it will be interesting to see if Eric can come close to accomplishing what his dad, Bobby, achieved in 14 years in the League, especially since he doesn't play the same style or position the former Islander great once did.
"I think there's similarities there," Eric Nystrom said. "He was a pretty good heart-and-soul type player and I like to do that. But I try to maybe play a little more skilled game. He was in the box a lot. I try and stay out of the box. I'd rather be on the ice than in the penalty box, but I'm definitely not one to back down. That's something that's also similar to him. But, he was a right wing and I'm a left wing, so we kind of played different positions. Similar games, but like I said I try to put a little more skill into it."
Eric Nystrom has also taken a different route in his hockey career than his dad did. He decided to go to college and play hockey for the Michigan Wolverines, while his dad chose junior hockey as a stepping stone to the NHL.
"I had the choice between major junior and college and I sat down and put the pros and cons together and I thought that at the time that college hockey would be more beneficial from the developmental aspect," Eric said. "It just gives you more practices and less games and I thought that I could benefit from that and kind of get my skills a little better in practice, as opposed to playing 60 or 70 games. You get a much better practice to game ratio [in college], plus the coaching here [at Michigan] is unbelievable.
Berenson believes Nystrom, who is the fourth-highest draft pick in school history, will some day become a solid NHL player.
"He is a coach's player, and he has no real holes," Berenson said. "He is an honest two-way player with good bloodlines, and he has all the intangibles that don't always show up."
Another thing that doesn't always show up is the degree these college players get when they graduate.
"Having the degree to fall back on is also very important," Nystrom said. "You just never know what can happen. God forbid an injury happens or you just never make it, you never cut it at the NHL level. You have something to fall back on and that's important. A lot of people don't take into consideration that there is life after hockey and that's why a college degree is so important for life. Hockey has to end sometime."
Another Michigan player who is hoping to become a second-generation NHLer is Jeff Tambellini. While the Wolverines' forward has yet to be drafted by an NHL club, he hopes to one day have a chance to play in the NHL like his dad, Steve Tambellini, did.