Eric Chouinard. Does the name ring a bell? Possibly you know of his father, Guy Chouinard, who spent 10 years in the NHL. A career spanning from the mid 1970’s to the mid 1980s, dividing up his time with the Atlanta/Calgary Flames franchise as well as the St. Louis Blues (where he ended his NHL Career in 1984), only to finish his career in the IHL the following season (International Hockey League), where he played 9 games, registering 2 goals and 5 assists for 7 points. Guy Chouinard. A man who played 578 National Hockey League games, collecting 205 goals, 370 assists for a grand total of 575 points. Impressive numbers? Understatement. But, although it appears I am just about ready to praise the career of one extraordinary hockey player, I’m actually here to speak about his son.
Eric Chouinard led an impressive Juniors Career. In his three seasons with the Quebec Remparts (1997-1998, 1998-1999, 1999-1900) he tallied 296 points. He also opted to play for Canada instead of USA Hockey in the World Junior Championships (1999-2000), where in 7 games he accounted for 3 goals. At the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, the Montreal Canadiens selected him in the first round, 16th overall. Chouinard went 6 spots ahead of fellow Quebec Remparts alumni, and best friend, Simon Gagne. Does that not just speak volumes, and yet, he squandered his youthful years in the minor league system, playing significantly more games in the AHL than the NHL.
Despite his 6 game playoff stint with the Fredericton Canadiens (no longer in operation) during the 1998-1999 season, where he produced 5 points for the team, his career in the AHL/NHL system began during the 2000-2001 season with the Montreal Canadiens. He played 13 games with them, coming up with only FOUR (4) points...FOUR POINTS in 13 games. He was then sent down to their new AHL affiliate, the Quebec Citadelles, for the rest of the season. In 48 games with the Quebec Citadelles, he tallied 12 goals and 21 assists for 33 points. He spent the following season in the AHL as well, playing 65 games and totaled 42 points, and in both years had a plus/minus rating of a minus 7.
Eric started the 2002-2003 season with the Utah Grizzlies in the ECHL, in 32 games he produced 24 points before being picked up by the Philadelphia Flyers that same season. It was then that he finally got back into competing in the NHL. Chouinard played 28 games with the Flyers that season. Scoring 4 goals and adding 4 assists for a hearty 8-point total, Chouinard in the next season (2003-2004) only saw 17 games with the Flyers, where he was a minus 3 and only had 3 points (all 3 points registered by goals). The Flyers sent him down to the Philadelphia Phantoms (their AHL affiliate), where he played one game, he was then subsequently scooped up by the Minnesota Wild. He finished out the 2003-2004 season with the Minnesota club, playing in 31 games but his goal and assist totals only combined for 7 points and he was a minus 7 for them on the season.
Not a very impressive showing in the NHL for a former first round draft pick selected 16th overall, is it?
The 2004-2005 NHL lock out year saw Eric Chouinard play overseas for the EC Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, in the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga. In 16 games, he had 5 goals and 5 assists. The summer after the lockout, he was reacquired by the Philadelphia Flyers where he only suited up for one game, and only managed to acquire a 2 minute minor and after that it was back to the AHL he went: 14 point in 24 games. That same season, the Phoenix Coyote organization attained him and he spent the rest of ’05-’06 with the San Antonio Rampage in the AHL. In 47 games with the Rampage, he saw himself tally just 20 points. That would be his last season in the States, as he ventured back overseas and tried his luck in Switzerland with the HC Sierre-Anniviers in Nationalliga B but he only played 4 games with them in the ’06-’07 season and accounted for 6 points before he proceeded to make his way over to Germany where he began to play for the Straubing Tigers in the German-DEL. He played in 123 games for them, and marked up 108 points in a career that lasted from the ’06-’07 season to the ’08-’09 season and the season after? Despite little information regarding the '09-'10 season, he did continue playing, and in 50 games for the Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers of the DEL, he collected 33 points.
Presently, as most of us have learned, he is attending the New Jersey Devils 2010 ROOKIE Camp, for the 2010-2011 year. Is a come back to the NHL in the works? It seems imminent and yet, in 90 games in the NHL, he only had 11 goals, 11 assists, equaling to 22 points. Mediocre? There has to be a better word for the performance of what once was a highly touted draft pick in the late 90s: a first round dud? A dissapointment? A man who lives in his father’s shadow, possibly feeling as though he needs to fill those shoes, and show what he’s worth? A man who may feel obligated to show the great hockey pedigree that seemed to flow through his veins--at least while he was in Juniors playing for the same team that his father flourished in as a young prospect.
At the ripe age of 30, Eric Chouinard is trying to prove himself at a Rookie Camp, surrounded by young men that have to be no older than 25 years of age. He’s a tenured veteran in comparison to the youth that are about to surround him. He’s been up and down and moved around and traveled all throughout his career. So what is he looking for now? With young guns such as Jacob Josefson, Adam Henrique, and Mattias Tedenby (just to name a few), how is an older fellow, like Eric Chouinard himself, going to crack a line up while in competition with these youthful, eager, and talented individuals? As made blatantly clear, his production while in the NHL was miniscule, has that changed? After spending 4 years over seas, will he wind up with the Devils AHL Affiliates, the same fate it seems he has fallen to with every NHL Club he has joined? Or will his perseverance, hard work, and the raw talented he once possessed shine through? Or will his age be a defining factor, in which his veteran status could be used to mentor the kids in the AHL, and thus, again, to the minor leagues he would toil.
There is so much to be speculated, and skepticism is justified given his track record but if there is one thing that a given person would say when asked about Eric Chouinard, majority of the time, they’ll tell you despite his lack of productivity, he was easily a likeable fellow. You can’t help but get behind him, support, and hope for him to finally succeed. Who wouldn’t want to see him succeed? The son of Guy Chouinard should not be tainted with the title of “washed up hockey player” by no means.
With a long week ahead of them, those participating in the Devils 2010 Rookie Camp have much to look forward to, as well as a lot to fight for and prove. Eric Chouinard will be right there, and through the week we’ll here updates and comments and only then will we see what Eric Chouinard has left in the tank. Only time will be able to tell us if there is potential left in him and if maybe, just maybe, his time in the NHL had yet to come because maybe, just maybe, his time is now.
When all is said and done, Eric Chouinard has a rather second-rate career under his belt thus far, and faced a lot of frustration but frankly, deep down inside, I think he can really do something. I put faith in his abilities, because there WAS and possibly still is something there. I was beyond shocked to see his name on the Rookie Camp roster for the Devils and had to double check with fellow peers as to whether or not this was the SAME Eric Chouinard who once was a Philadelphia Flyer, who had appeared to have dropped off the face of the earth after primarily spending the majority of his time in the AHL and in fact it was. Yet, somehow, his name excited me. Why? I couldn’t tell you. I always liked the guy and maybe my excitement is attributed to the fact that I’m glad to see him trying to come back but I would like to think that he could impress the New Jersey Devils organization enough to give him a chance next season. Wishful thinking? Maybe, but you can never count a person out, especially a hockey player. They can, in fact, surprise you.
I suppose there is no better way to wrap up this blog (that has turned into a ramble) than by saying this: with a renowned name in the hockey community such as Chouinard, should he not at least attempt to redeem himself? To try to live up to the expectations set upon as a first round draft pick and the SON of Guy Chouinard is overwhelming and when pondering over this all, it is not totally surprising that his career has shaped into what it is. Guy Chouinard: it’s a lot to live up too, but I will say, give the guy a chance, eh? It couldn’t hurt you all that much...
*Picture credit: checkoutmycards.com, http://ourhistory.canadiens.com/player/Eric-Chouinard
**Stats taken from: legendsofhockey.net
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