January 07, 2016

Mike Eagles

Mike Eagles was a long time NHL player who never scored a lot of goals but always earned a ton of respect.

Eagles was born in Sussex, New Brunswick. He starred for the Kitchener Rangers in back to back OHL championship teams in 1981 and 1982. That second year the Rangers - a team that also featured Brian Bellows, Al MacInnis and Scott Stevens - won the Memorial Cup as Canada's junior champions.

Eagles was a Quebec Nordiques draft pick (116th overall) in 1981, but he would play more career NHL games than most in that draft class. Eagles played in 853 career games with the Nordiques, the Chicago Blackhawks, the original Winnipeg Jets and the Washington Capitals. He skated in an additional 44 Stanley Cup playoff games.

Through it all Eagles was a prototypical fourth line center - perhaps one of the best in the league at that particular role at the time. He did not score often - just 74 times in his entire NHL career - but he was a defensive specialist and energy guy.

Eagles was always hurrying in on the forecheck, creating turnovers and forcing bad passes. He played with intelligence and passion. He'd drive the other team to distraction with his dogged pursuit. Despite his relatively small size, he always finished his check.

A faceoff specialist, Eagles was often asked to shut down the opponent's top centers. He did not match up too well with the power forwards of the league like Mark Messier or Mario Lemieux, but his skating allowed him to do an effective job against the more fleeting centers in the league.

Eagles was also a regular on the penalty kill and a noted shot blocker back in the days when not too many players stepped in front of pucks like they do nowadays.

Eagles, a born-again Christian, returned to New Brunswick after his playing days were over. He would coach at the St. Thomas University squad in Fredricton for a stretch.

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