March 03, 2016

Erik Westrum

Like most pro hockey players, Erik Westrum grew up dreaming of becoming a hockey player from a very early age.

Little Erik did have an advantage on most of his counterparts. After all, his father was a pro hockey player.

Patrick Westrum had starred with the University of Minnesota from 1968 through 1970 before embarking on a 10 year pro career. Despite spending some time in the Boston Bruins organization he never played in the National Hockey League himself. But he did play in 237 games of big league hockey with several teams in the World Hockey Association. He also played in the 1978 World Hockey Championships.

It was in this well-travelled life that Erik grew up, dreaming of being like his dad.

“Growing up with my dad playing hockey and then me and my brother playing, I just think it was something that came naturally,” said Erik. “I always wanted to become a professional hockey player.”

As a junior at Apple Valley High School Erik helped lead his team to the 1996 Minnesota State High School Hockey Championship, scoring a hat trick in the finale overtime game.

From there he followed in his dad's footsteps and went to the University of Minnesota. He was an excellent student (thanks to his mom, a school teacher, he says), earning a Bachelor of Arts at the Carlson School of Management. Meanwhile he also excelled on the ice for four seasons. He scored 168 points in 161 games. He was a WCHA second-team All -Star in 2001 and third-team All-Star in 2000. He was also team captain for two years and won the team's MVP award in both 2000 and 2001.

Westrum was drafted in the seventh round of the 1998 NHL draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. He would played three seasons in the minor leagues, maturing his game. He was noted as a combative two-way center with a nice burst of acceleration. He was strong on the puck and good at protecting it. He played with a definite edge, though his emotions could get the best of him at times.

In the 2003-04 season Westrum made his NHL debut.  He would play a total of 15 games with the Coyotes, including his inaugural game against the Minnesota Wild. He even scored his first goal - the only Coyotes goal in a 1-1 tie vs. Detroit. A couple of games later he added an assist in a 3-2 win in Minnesota.

Westrum finished that 2004 season with a trip to the World Hockey Championships. Interestingly, that tourney was played in Prague, just like it was in 1978 when his father played in it. Erik would score the game winning goal in the shootout against Slovakia, giving Team USA a bronze medal.

In the summer of 2005 Westrum (along with Dustin Wood) were traded to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Zbynek Michalek. Though he was mostly assigned to the minor leagues where he was a top scorer, Westrum did get to play ten games for Minnesota in 2005-06 (picking up an assist).

Westrum was not re-signed in the summer of 2006. He joined the Toronto Maple Leafs organization for the 2006-07 season. Again he mostly played on the farm team, but did get called up for a two game look with the Leafs.

That proved to be Westrum's curtain call on his NHL career. Though he seemingly disappeared after 27 career games, Westrum continued to play as a star in Switzerland until 2012 when he had to give up the game due to a serious concussion.

Westrum returned to Minnesota after his playing days were over. He settled in Prior Lake, about 20 minutes south of Minneapolis. He got into the insurance business while sitting on the local Chamber of Commerce. He was also an executive board member of the National Parkinson's Association.

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