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In 2003, the Washington Capitals drafted forward Eric Fehr with their first-round pick, a selection that would in turn see the Winkler, Manitoba native play a total of 419 games in a Washington sweater across two stints with the club.
After leaving the Caps in free agency in the summer of 2015, Fehr spent time with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Minnesota Wild, capturing a Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2016.
In June, Fehr talked with Winnipeg Sports Talk podcast host Andrew Paterson on a myriad of topics, including his playing career, playing for Barry Trotz, and his new role as Director of Player Development with his hometown Winkler Flyers.
Barry Trotz was the Capitals’ Head Coach from 2014-2018, leading the team to their first Stanley Cup championship in the summer of 2018 before resigning after a contract dispute. The seasoned bench boss was brought to Washington to stabilize and change a culture in the locker room that had been missing previously.
“I’m a big fan of Barry Trotz, he’s a great coach. He expects a lot and he demands it every day, which I think you have to do, especially in the NHL nowadays with players performing at the top level and you can’t let guys slip and that’s kind of what he brought to Washington. Obviously he ended up winning a Stanley Cup there…and I thought he did a great job. For me personally, I loved playing for him…I remember how hard we worked the first day of training camp, I think he set the tone pretty quick for us. We had an older group of guys that had kind of been…knocking on the door for a number of years, he really wanted to get the most out of us. I think he’s a people person, he’s a guy you can trust, he’ll shoot you straight. So I think the longer he’s there, the more players learn to trust him and believe he has their best interest, even though it doesn’t always look like it, so that’s probably one of the ways he stands out…I think the biggest thing for him is how personable he is and how you can trust him.”
During his playing career, Fehr played with both Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, two of the game’s best players.
“…I really enjoyed playing with Ovi, that guy is a ball of energy everywhere he goes. What you see on the ice everyday is how he is in the dressing room everyday I don’t know how he continues to function at such a high frequency. He loves the game more than most and he just loves scoring goals and he’ll do whatever it takes to score goals, so it was really fun watching him develop. To say I got to play with a guy like Ovdchkin, and Sid, [Auston] Matthews, [Joe] Thornton, at the end of it all, it’s just pretty special to play with these guys…”
After playing 72 games in the 2018-19 season with the Minnesota Wild, Fehr signed with Geneve-Servette of the Swiss-A league, recording 76 Points in 94 games across two seasons. Last season, he played five games with Kazan AK-Bars of the Kontinental Hockey League.
The soon-to-be 37-year old forward has not “officially” announced his retirement from professional hockey, which has seen him play a total of 652 games in the NHL with six clubs, however he accepted the role of Director of Player Development for the Junior Winkler Flyers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League in June 2022 to “aid in the on ice and off ice development of Flyers players and prospects”.
“It’s extremely difficult, I still watch the NHL and there’s always a part of me that’s like ‘I can still do that, I could still do it’, but it’s been nice that I’ve had a few years away from the NHL where it’s been a little bit quieter…and just a little bit of time to wind down and prepare myself mentally for retirement. I don’t expect to play next year, I’m hoping to get into retirement, but there’s always that itch where you feel like you could do it, you want to score goals, want to be part of a winning team, so it’s hard to give up for sure.”
“Well my best friend [former NHLer Justin Falk] is the General Manager-Coach of the Winkler Flyers, he was there last year. I was helping him as much as I could, obviously being away in Russia and doing all that other stuff, I wasn’t able to help as much as I wanted. But when I came back and decided I was probably going to be done, I took that job and I’m excited to work with some of the young talent there. It was exciting to be part of the MJHL draft, talk to a lot of the players, watch the video, and go to these camps to watch these guys. There’s definitely a large part of me that wants to be involved in hockey in some capacity so I feel this is a good way for me to gauge what interests me and how I want to be involved in it in the future…I think for me the player development or the management side would be more intriguing for me. Coaching I would probably get too involved, as a player I always got the heart rate up…I’ve always enjoyed working with players, even in the last couple years of my career…I just love watching passionate young players and see where they can go.”
Fehr joins the show at the 34:02 mark:
Fehr recorded 221 Points in 652 Games Played at the NHL and while he won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2016, was most productive during his two stints in Washington, during which he had a penchant for coming up big in the outdoor Winter Classic appearances in 2011 and 2015.
By Michael Fleetwood