The six-foot-five, 240-pounder from Ottawa could dominate the game physically, but he prided himself in playing cleanly, as his penalty minute totals suggest. He understood how to get good body positioning on the attacker, allowing him to be a more effective defender. He kept his elbows and his stick low.
Therien was very good at reading the defensive play. He would keep players to the outside and rub them out of the play along the boards. In the open ice he nicely dropped to one knee often and used his stick wisely, taking away passing and shooting lanes and making him an even larger obstacle for opponents to outmaneuver.
Just ask Jaromir Jagr. For whatever reason, Therien earned the reputation as the man who was able to shut down the great Czech scorer.
A regular on the penalty kill, Therien was a nice number four defenseman overall. Regularly paired with Eric Desjardins, Therien did not add a lot of offense, but made a nice first pass out of his own zone and manned the point simply and effectively.
The man known as "Bundy" (as in outspoken TV character Al Bundy) was a popular teammate as well. What more would you expect from a man who, in the words of his Facebook page, majored in "partying, keg stands and beer pong."
Chris Therien attended Providence College (he actually studied business) from 1990 through 1993, starring on the Friars blue line.
In 1994 he skated for Canada's national team and made the Olympic squad in the days before NHL players dominated Olympic rosters. Therien earned a silver medal in Norway.
The Philadelphia Flyers had drafted Therien 47th overall back in 1990. With the exception of 11 games in Dallas late in his career, Therien played with the Flyers his entire career.
Therien retired in 2006. In eleven NHL seasons he skated in 764 career games, scoring 29 goals and 159 points. He added another 104 games played in the Stanley Cup playoffs, where he scored four goals and fourteen points.
Therien always credited his national team experience with helping to develop his game.
"It was a good breeding ground for a lot of NHLers," he said of the national team program. "They're more patient. This is like a year in the minors, but it's a finesse year, a prestigious year.
"I've really picked up my defensive play. I've usually been an offensive defenceman."
But it wasn't always easy. Therien was, at times, not used by coach Tom Renney as he was still a work in progress at the international level.
"It's been tough here when the coaches are always telling you to hang back and take it easy when you want to wade in and throw down your gloves," he said. "It's been tough for me. It's been great working on my skills and mobility over here. I've really enjoyed my time with this program."
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