Most hockey fans have a soft spot for hard rock defensemen like Eric Cairns.
Cairns played 457 games in the NHL, most notably with the New York Islanders. His 10 career goals and 1182 career penalty minutes tell you quite a lot about this defender from Oakville, Ontario.
At 6'6" and 230lbs, Eric Cairns was imposing to say the least. But this tough guy could play. He overcame his lack of foot speed and agility to angle puck carriers to the outside and out of danger. Once he got the puck he protected the puck nicely and was capable of making smart passes out of the zone. Offensively he really only worried about getting the puck deep into the zone and then holding the blue line.
But lets make no mistake. Cairns was a willing NHL enforcer and understood what that entailed.
“You never want to do anything that’s going to put your team at a disadvantage," he said. “The most important thing is to protect your teammates. You have to resist acting on impulse to things that happen on the ice. The bottom line is winning, not doing something that causes your team to lose.”
Cairns always understood the benefits of standing up for his teammates.
“Win lose or draw, it means a lot to have your teammates come up and thank you for defending them. That really puts things into perspective.”
Cairns may have been imposing on the ice, but he wasn't such a bad guy in real life.
“I suppose when I meet some people, they take one look at me and think I’m a big monster,” he said with a chuckle. “On the ice, I’m very serious, but I’m not that way once the game is over. I was raised to be very well-mannered. My parents are very classy people and that’s the way I’d like to be viewed by others. That’s very important to me.”
Eric Cairns was a very respected National Hockey League player, by his peers and by the fans.