Looking Back: Shawn McEachern

This interview first appeared on www.openingfaceoff.net on June 24, 2011.

In both 1991 and 1992, the Pittsburgh Penguins won consecutive Stanley Cups.  While 2011 is the 20th anniversary of the 1991 Cup run, the 1992 Cup run had its share of heroes as well.  Shawn McEachern was one of those heroes that forever imprinted his name in Pittsburgh playoff lore.

Shawn McEachern broke into the league in 1991-92.  He was quickly noticed for his blazing speed and versatility at forward, able to play wing and center.  He scored his first playoff goal against the New York Rangers, helping eliminate the President’s Trophy winning Rangers in six games.  He went on to play for Ottawa, Boston, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.  He was drafted 110th overall in the 1987 NHL entry draft.

McEachern established a reputation of playing hard-nosed hockey, and developed into a topnotch leader, eventually wearing the captain’s ‘C’ in a Thrashers uniform.  He collected 579 points in 911 NHL games.  McEachern’s value came in more than goals and assists.

I had the privilege of catching up with Shawn McEachern in my quest to obtain interviews of former Penguins players from the 1991 and 92 Cup winning years.  It was a blast catching up with yet another Penguin hero, and taking a trip down memory lane of the 1992 Stanley Cup champions!  My sincere thanks to Mr. McEachern for his time and memories!

And now, at left wing for the Pittsburgh Penguins, #15…Shawn McEachern!

Justin– Despite playing only 15 games in the 1991-92 regular season, you became a regular in the playoffs, playing in 19 games.  What role were you given as a rookie winger on the 1992 team?

Shawn–It really depended on the series.  Against the Rangers I played some center when Mario and Mullen got hurt and then when Mario came back I moved to the wing.  I tried to use my speed as much as possible.  Against the Rangers Scotty wanted me to chase down Leetch, that was lots of fun.

Justin–When you first entered the league, you started your career playing with future Hall of Famers like Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, and Joe Mullen.  What did that do for your career personally, learning from a lineup like that?

Shawn–It was pretty intimidating at first, this was a high powered team.  We had guys that could score through out the line up.  I think it gave me confidence that I could score in the league.  Playing with such great players I got lots of chances.

Justin–You scored your first NHL goal in the second round against the heavily favored New York Rangers (a backhand, I believe).  It gave the Pens a 3-1 lead in Game 6.  What did that mean to you, scoring your first goal in the playoffs?

Shawn–It was a huge relief.  I had so many good chances before that in the regular season and the playoffs.  I wanted to prove I belonged, getting one against a team like the Rangers and helping to put them away was a blast.

Justin–Being a rookie, watching the seconds tick away in Game 4, with Chicago buzzing in your end, what was going through your mind?

Shawn–I was just excited.  I don’t think at the time I realized how big it was.  That was the last time I played in the finals, as a young guy you think you’ll get back there, especially with the team we had in Pitt.

Justin–Your name is among the many engraved on the Stanley Cup.  Knowing that, and owning a Cup ring…what memory stands out the most during the 1992 playoffs (besides the Cup win itself)?

Shawn–I have so many good memories from that year.  The plane ride home from Chicago to Pitt was amazing, my family was there and they got to experience it.  Playing in the playoffs after watching it on TV the year before was surreal.  Scoring my first NHL goal was up there for sure.  Holding the Stanley Cup in Chicago Stadium, standing on the bench for the national anthem in Chicago is an experience in it self.  Playing in Boston and winning in four was a thrill.

Justin–In 1992-93, the Penguins were the obvious favorites to win the Stanley Cup.  However, you ran into a determined Islanders team that eliminated Pittsburgh in seven games.  What happened in that series?

Shawn–They had our number all year long.  They were the only team that gave us trouble.  Kasparaitis played Mario and Jagr very tough.  They had a good defensive team with some scoring.  I think we really would have beaten them if Kevin Stevens hadn’t had that terrible injury.  That was devastating to the team.

Justin–What was Scotty Bowman like as a coach?  How did he help your career on a personal level?

Shawn–Scotty was tough.  I joined Pitt after the Olympics and lived in the same hotel as him for 3 months.  He wouldn’t even say hello on the elevator if I saw him.  But after we won the cup he was friendly as can be, talking to my Dad just a regular guy.  Then camp started next season and he wouldn’t say hello again.  Scotty played his best players, as a young guy you got one chance.  If you didn’t perform you sat down.  That’s what pro hockey is about, results.  It took me awhile to figure that out.  You better be ready to play.

Justin–After two seasons in Pittsburgh, you were traded to the Los Angeles Kings, and then back again.  Describe what goes through a player’s mind when they are traded.

Shawn–It’s tough.  Especially the first time.  I enjoyed playing for Pitt and felt good about how I had played.  I was traded back 6 months later so it came full circle.  It’s just part of the business but it’s tough on you confidence.  You wonder why they don’t want you, what you could have done differently.  I think it made me a better player in the long run.

Justin–As a former Atlanta player, what are your thoughts on the Thrashers’ move to Winnipeg?  Could the NHL have worked in Georgia?

Shawn–I loved playing in Atlanta.  It was a great place.  I think it could have worked with the right owners and if they could have put a winning team on the ice.  They made some bad decisions and lost some very good young players that they could have built around.  When I was down there they had Kovi and Heatley.  I think the Heatley accident and the loss of Dan Schnieder had a huge impact on that organization.

Justin–How are you filling your time in your retirement?  How is The Rivers school treating you?

Shawn–I’ve been coaching the past 5 years.  Four years in college and the past year at Rivers, a small independent school outside of Boston.  I work in admissions and the athletics dept.  It’s been a lot of fun.  I enjoy coaching and being around the kids. My kids are in to their sports as well so we are on the road quite a bit.  It’s been fun.

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