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85 Years of Blood, Sweat and Cheers: Eric Nesterenko

by Ab McDonald / Chicago Blackhawks

In this edition of the "85 Years" series, Ab McDonald talks about fellow 1961 Stanley Cup champion Eric Nesterenko.


On November 17, 1926, the Chicago Black Hawks took the ice for the first time. 85 years later, the Blackhawks hold an important place in NHL history and Chicago sports.

In celebration of the Blackhawks’ 85th anniversary, Blackhawks Magazine and will profile some of the greatest players to ever don the sweater, with essays written by the people who knew them best: teammates, rivals, broadcasters and other members of the NHL community.

Check every Wednesday for another entry in the "85 Years" series.

Recent "85 Years" entries:

> Dirk Graham, by Troy Murray
> Jeremy Roenick, by Keith Tkachuk
> Pit Martin, by Dennis Hull
> Charlie Gardiner's career in photos

Eric Nesterenko has always been just a little different. Not in a negative way, mind you, but he was always on a little different wavelength from most of the players of his time, which is also what drove him to be great.

Eric just always did things his own way, and he wasn't concerned with what people thought of him. He played hockey that way, and he did the little things that other guys didn't to prepare. When he skated in practice, he would do laps by himself with a timer in hand. I guess he had to do it in a certain amount of time.

He really prided himself on being a defensive hockey player. When he first came up with the Toronto Maple Leafs, he could score goals. And he could score goals here, too, but I think he took more pride in his defense, and he looked at killing penalties like a challenge. And he was as good of a penalty killer as they come. He took the most pride in shutting down an opposing line.

What was really funny is that while he did play hockey, he never really acknowledged how good of a hockey player he was, or that he even was a “hockey player.” He looked at those of us who played a more offensive game and he used to say to me, "You are a hockey player. You can play the game.” I don’t think it was false modesty; he really believed it.

Although I would consider him my friend and get along with him very well, Eric was a bit of a loner at times, too. When we get together, we always enjoy each other's company and converse in a way that other people can't. He's unique in that sense, but the more you spend time with him and get to know him, the more you like him.

As I said, Eric could be a bit of a “lone wolf,” too—he would go with the guys to a certain extent, but then he would sort of wander off. He was always a great guy, but he was tough to keep in one place for very long.

So many of Eric’s interests went further than hockey, and his interests have only gotten more diverse since he retired. Most fans will remember Eric acting in “Youngblood” – I’ve still never seen it, but I’ve always meant to – but he has so many different interests. He's done a movie and he wrote a book. He's in his late-70's and he calls himself a ‘ski bum’; he skied in the middle of June last year. Even at his age, he’s skied every day since when I saw him last January until the middle of the summer. He takes people out on trails - maybe even to places they shouldn’t go- and he knows where to go so that they won't get lost. He just loves it.

I would expect nothing less from Eric. He was always the kind of person to march to the beat of his own drummer.

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