PHPA Press Releases
Eric Neilson Protects his Teammates on and off the Ice
By Kris Eberwein Published on: Thursday November 15, 2012
Eric Neilson isn’t the kind of hockey player who backs down from a fight. Neilson relies on his physical toughness on the ice and off the ice, and has the kind of mental fortitude that every coach dreams of.
Neilson has the reputation for putting up far more PIMS than points in a season. After he’s done protecting the boys on the ice he goes the extra mile to protect his teammates off the ice by working as a member of the PHPA’s player Executive Committee.
“I’ve been on the Executive Committee for about two years now. It’s a great chance to learn something new and help my fellow players at the same time,” said Neilson.
Neilson fell in with the PHPA by chance but much like his battles on the ice, he didn’t back down from the challenge.
“I originally got hooked up with the PHPA when I was with the Long Beach Ice Dogs in the ECHL. Our team’s Player Representative got sick and couldn’t attend the PHPA Annual Meeting of Player Representatives and our alternate was sick too, so I stepped up.”
Neilson is aware that the work he does with the PHPA will not only affect his current teammates but will also serve future players.
“Guys who came before me like Mathieu Darche and Pete Vandermeer did so much for our game and players like me. My goal is to carry on their legacy and help out the guys who will be playing after I’m gone,” said Neilson.
Stepping up seems to be a way of life for Neilson, who is also known for his community service efforts. Neilson was the winner of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year Award three times; in 2008-09 with the Peoria Rivermen, in 2009-10 with the Hamilton Bulldogs, and in 2010-11 with the San Antonio Rampage.
This year, Neilson is on to yet another city in his hockey journey. After winning the Calder Cup in 2012 with the Norfolk Admirals, Neilson and his team moved to Syracuse for the 2012-13 season. After winning the Calder Cup last season the Admirals changed their NHL affiliation and most of the team followed the Tampa Bay Lightning to their new AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch.
“It’s pretty much the same organization down the line. We won the Cup last year and it would be great to have another run at it in a new city,” said Neilson.
Life on the road can be difficult but traveling and playing in different cities is part and parcel of the lifestyle of a professional hockey player.
“I love life on the road, it exciting for me. What a lot of people don’t realize is travelling together is a big part of building a team. You may just be sitting on a bus or a plane but that time really builds relationships and a team community.”
With the NHL lockout looming over the AHL, there are plenty of new faces to build relationships with. Many players presently with the Crunch would perhaps be playing in the NHL at the moment if not for the lockout.
“We’ve got about four guys who would probably be playing for the Lightning right now,” said Neilson.
Despite his ice time being cut down, Neilson continues to keep his head up.
“I’ve definitely lost ice time because of the lockout but the important thing is to know your role and play for the team,” said Neilson. “There’s no NHL right now so there’s more scouts watching AHL games at the moment. You have to recognize your chances and make the most of them.”
Neilson is a living example of someone who makes the most out of his chances. From his chance to play hockey, to his chances to help his fellow players and the community, Neilson is a prime example of the PHPA’s core values and a person that sets the bar for players who will come after him.