Shawn McEarchern, Left Winger, Pittsburgh Penguins
First, can you let readers know about your job at The River School – how you got started and what you like most as a coach?
When I retired I started coaching college hockey as an assistant at Northeastern for two years and then Umass Lowell for two years. I wanted to be a head coach and the job at Rivers became available. I am the hockey coach, I work in admissions and am assistant athletic director. It’s been lots of fun coaching and working at a high school. I have two daughters that are students at Rivers as well. It’s been great being a part of the Rivers community.
How difficult has it for you to transition from the NHL to a second career – and how were you able to do so?
I have always wanted to coach when I was done playing. I was injured in Atlanta and out for the season so I went back to school online to finish my college degree so I could have a chance to coach college or prep school hockey. It’s a transition but I enjoy it. It’s something I was committed to doing and I have never looked back.
As a coach, who are some of the players and coaches that most influenced your coaching style today, and how so?
I would say Jauque Martin, Bob Hartley, Craig Ramsay, and Perry Pearn would be the coaches that most influenced me while playing in the NHL. Their approach to the game and coaching styles were all very different, but I learned the most from them. Being a coach I can look back and appreciate some of their decisions that maybe I didn’t appreciate back then.
You read today about the struggles many NFL players face in transitioning from football to a post-sports career. How does the NHL help players do so – if at all?
I’m not sure the NHL does a good job helping players after they retire. The NHLPA has some programs to help guys transition. But I think it’s really up to the individual to help them selves. As a player your only focus is getting ready to play and then it ends suddenly, it’s an odd feeling. I’m glad I went to college and played hockey, the focus is not all about hockey it’s about being a well rounded person and education. I think this helps prepare you for life after hockey.
Is the problem as prominent with NHL players? Why/why not? I would say yes.
The longer I have been retired the more I hear about guys struggling with being done playing. It’s sad, some of the guys were elite players that I looked up to as players, but they have struggled now that they don’t have the game in their lives.
You were drafted in ’87 by the Penguins. What were your thoughts on being drafted by Pittsburgh at the time?
I was excited. It was different back then, I didn’t go to the draft. I was actually out in my driveway washing my car and Sean Walsh the coach at the University of Maine called to tell me I was drafted. He was recruiting me to play hockey at Maine at the time. I told my parents and then went back out to finnish washing the car.
Who helped you adjust to the NHL – both on and off the ice -and how did they do so? Any examples?
I’m not sure. I think I had some growing pains when I first joined Pittsburgh. It was a transition becoming a pro hockey player and it took me a few years before I figured it out. I couldn’t say any one person helped me, but you realize quickly that if you don’t figure it out you’ll be gone.
Who were some of the biggest characters on that Penguins team and what made them so? Any examples of the hijinks/personalities on that team?
There were a few characters, I would say Wendel Young would be at the top of the list. He’s a funny guy who always seems to be upbeat.
What prompted your departure from the team in ’95 – and how did the consistent movement between teams affect you and others you played with?- both on and off the ice – as a player? How difficult is that to deal with?
I was traded with Kevin Stephens to Boston. It’s odd the first time you get traded but it’s just part of the business.
What are your favorite memories of your time in Pittsburgh?
Getting a chance to play in the NHL first and then winning a Stanley Cup.