Chris Tamer, Penguins Defenseman, 1993-1998
First, can you let readers know about Crossfit Brighton – how you got started and what you like most as a trainer?
I continued to train following my retirement. I was introduced to Crossfit by a friend of mine. When I started the workouts I was humbled by the intensity and effectiveness of the training. It immediately identified my weaknesses that I have dealt with during my career. During my career I had back surgery, abdominal surgery and shoulder issues. The training helped my with my range of motion and flexibility. I also increased strength and was able to lift properly without aggravating the previous injuries.
This experience personalized the effectiveness for me. We started training youth athletes then I ended up opening my own gym soon after. Having people make gains never thought possible is the most rewarding aspect of being a trainer.
How difficult has it for you to transition from the NHL to a second career – and how were you able to do so?
It wasn’t too difficult of a transition for me. I had a chance to spend more time with my family. The challenging part was to find something that I had passion for. I didn’t want to sit behind a desk or get into sales. Being a part of the “Crossfit” community and going to a gym everyday was something that was a great fit for me. We have a great community going here and it is great being a part a team atmosphere.
As a trainer, who are some of the players and coaches that most influenced your training style today, and how so?
I always talked with players about off ice or summer training. I definitely needed to make the most out of off ice training. John Welday was the strength coach for the Penguins back then. He did a great job with all the players and helped me out immensely. He made training fun as well as effective. He was a big part of all the teams back in the 90’s.
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, and is the issue as big with former NHL players as it is with NFL ones?
I do think that it is a substantial transition for many professional athletes. I do know of some players that struggle for years trying to find a purpose and make a living and I was not too different. Many have played sports for years and don’t have experience in other fields. Their sport is all they know. The NHL alumni association has programs for former players to take advantage of. I went to a few of them and they can be helpful. I hope they continue to expand this program and increase awareness for the players.
The biggest thing that helped me was when my dad told me I wasn’t retired anymore, I was unemployed. That was his way of kicking me in the rear end.
You were drafted by the Penguins in 1990. What were your thoughts on getting drafted by the Penguins?
I was extremely excited to be drafted by the Pens. Back then they were in the Stanley Cup years. The players were very talented and successful. I tempered the excitement with being worried about how I was going to make a team. My first year they had nine NHL defensemen. It was a good learning experience.
Who helped you adjust to the NHL – both on and off the ice -and how did they do so? Any examples?
Craig Patrick was the GM back then. He did a very good job of communicating with young players and giving them chances to show what we had. He was very successful as GM and as a result so were his teams. Eddie Johnston, Rick Kehoe and Bryan Trottier were the coaches. They were great at keeping things in perspective for me as a young player.
You were known to be a tough defenseman not afraid to fight. But were there aspects of your game you felt were under-rated because of your “tough-guy” role?
I knew I had to be able to be solid defensively in order to stick with the team. Fighting helped me with my confidence and gave me a bit of space but I realized early on that I need to offer more.
What was the biggest difference you found to exist between the minors and NHL – and how did you adjust?
Many players in the minors were very talented. I was surprised by the level of talent there. Many of them had the talent to play in the NHL. One of the differences from the NHL and the minors was that everyone was big and could skate. Taking the world class talented hockey players out, the biggest difference for the majority of the players was the mental aspect of the game.
You arrived on the team the year after the Penguins one their second Stanley Cup. How frustrating was it for you to just miss out on those tow Cup years and what was the mindset of the team that season?
It wasn’t frustrating as I got the chance to wear the Pens jersey. The most frustrating part of the was during retirement when people ask if I was part of the Stanley Cup teams. Winning the Stanley Cup is a huge accomplishment that any player should be proud of.
Who were some of the biggest characters on the Penguins teams you played for and what made them so? Any examples of the hijinks/personalities on that team?
Ian Moran took the #1, #2 and #3 spot for being a character of the game. We had a bet when my college team played his college team. For the next road trip he had to wear a suit, shirt and tie that didn’t even come close to matching. He looked like he just got in a fight with a peacock and lost. His outfit looked awful. I think it backfired as he made the most of it and actually enjoyed wearing the outfit.
What are your favorite memories of your time in Pittsburgh?
The playoffs were a great time of season in Pittsburgh. The fans were awesome.