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Hockey Heroes: Eric Desjardins

In September 1991, much of Canada was anxiously awaiting news about Team Canada's roster for the country's favorite international tournament at that time, the Canada Cup.
Most of the training camp the media was fixating on Eric Lindros, the junior superstar who would be making his debut against the best of the NHL. We all eagerly awaited the phenom's debut.

But when the final Team Canada roster was announced and the whole hockey world was talking about Lindros, many of us were scurrying to find out about another Eric - Eric Desjardins.

Who the heck was he?

He was a young Quebecker out of Rouyn-Noranda. He had played just 153 games in the previous three seasons with Montreal, scoring but 12 goals.

But Desjardins was very much there based on merit, although Canada's lack of right-handed shooters on the blue line played a role in his inclusion as well. He impressed thoroughly in that tournament.

Not long after that he became one of the top defensemen in the National Hockey League. He would star in Montreal, helping the Canadiens capture the 1993 Stanley Cup, thanks in large part to his hat trick performance against Los Angeles in game 2 of the finals.

He was quietly the anchor of Montreal's defense, and later Philadelphia's. He was never really equated with the elite defensemen of the game, yet he was not far off, either, providing a lot of steady minutes. His brilliance was not necessarily obvious, rather subtle and understated, much like himself.

Desjardins had good size at 6'1" and 205lbs, but he never played an overly physical game, perhaps making him less noticeable to the casual observer and easy to under-appreciate. Instead he relied on near perfect positioning and an active stick to check effectively. He was not thunderously noticeable, but he was efficient. He was clean and controlled, never panicked and rarely took a bad penalty.

He was as cool as a cucumber while under pressure in his own zone. He was excellent at head-manning the puck out of the zone and capable of handling (not necessarily rushing) the puck out himself.

On offense he was a power play quarter back, a rare right-handed one at that. Like Raymond Bourque he had a low, heavy slap shot that somehow always found it's way from the point on to the net, creating countless opportunities for rebounds and deflections.

By the mid 1990s the Canadiens needed offense and sacrificed their stud defenseman and a young John Leclair in exchange for veteran winger Mark Recchi. Recchi did well in Montreal, but somehow the team was never quite the same and headed into a tailspin.
Meanwhile in Philadelphia Leclair erupted into perhaps the game's best power forward, while Desjardins earned more recognition and became an all star defender, twice making the year end honorary team.

Desjardins played 11 seasons in Philadelphia, retiring as one of the greatest Flyers players of all time.

Desjardins recorded 396 points (93 goals, 303 assists) over 738 career games with the Flyers, retiring second in franchise history among blueliners in goals, assists and points, behind only Mark Howe.

Twice he was named as season ending NHL All Star (1998-99 and 1999-2000). Both seasons he finished top five in Norris trophy voting as well. Seven times he was recognized as the best defenseman for the Flyers.

Desjardins, who was the 12th captain in the Flyers, also represented Team Canada at the 1998 Olympics.


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