Alumni Corner With Chris Harrington

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Go Gophers! Chris Harrington
Go Gophers!
Chris Harrington had 109 points (14g-95a) in 170 career games at Minnesota.
Go Gophers!
St. Cloud-native Chris Harrington started his collegiate career by being one of five players to appear in all 45 games for Minnesota's 2002-03 National Championship team. He went on to rack up 14 goals and 95 assists in his four years, becoming the ninth-highest-scoring defenseman in Gopher Hockey history. Harrington also sits in 14th in penalty minutes with 266. During his time on the blueline in Maroon and Gold, the team won two Broadmoor Trophies, a MacNaughton Cup, and reached two Frozen Fours, in addition to the 2003 National Championship. Harrington took some time to catch up with GopherSports.com and look back on his time at the University of Minnesota:

GopherSports.com: Being from St. Cloud, how did you end up playing for Minnesota? Did you grow up rooting for the Gophers?
 
Chris Harrington: Well, I definitely didn't grow up rooting for the Gophers. My father coached at the University of Denver and then SCSU, so the Gophers were always "the bad guys" growing up for me.

I took official visits to a few other schools in the WCHA, but when I visited the U, it was like comparing apples to oranges. The atmosphere around campus and the feeling you get when you look up and see all of the championship banners hanging in the rafters is a feeling that I cannot describe.  At that moment I knew that the University of Minnesota was the place I wanted to go to school and play hockey. The best part of the whole story was when I called my father to tell him my decision. He kind of laughed and said, "Chris, that is the best decision you will ever make." He obviously knew something that I did not at the time!

GS: What was your time like at Minnesota and what is your favorite memory from playing at Mariucci Arena?

CH: My four years at the U was undoubtedly the best time of my life. It was an honor to be a student-athlete at Minnesota and I am forever grateful for the opportunity. My favorite memory - that is a difficult question. There are so many: my first home game,  Senior Night, the 2003 and 2005 NCAA Regionals, not to mention all of those battles in the WCHA week in and week out. It seemed like every weekend we were in a heavyweight fight!

GS: Where was your favorite place to eat on campus at the University of Minnesota?

CH: We loved going to Bobby Z's--which isn't there anymore--on Wednesday's for 10-cent wings, as well Campus Pizza, The Big 10, and The Library (the old one) - not as much for the food, though!

GS: Minnesota has produced many accomplished defensemen. How does it feel to be one of 12 defenseman in school history with over 100 points?

CH: You are right--the U has produced so many great D-men. I had the opportunity to play with three of the best: Paul Martin, Keith Ballard, and Alex Goligoski. It is a true honor to be one of 12 defenseman with 100 points. I was lucky to have the chance to be on teams that had so many great players. I would not be on this list without them. Being in a category with guys like Bill Baker, Joe Micheletti, Todd Richards, Jordan Leopold, Travis Richards, and my all-time favorite, Mike Crowley, is something that I cannot believe.

GS: What was it like joining a UM team that was the defending national champion as a freshman? Did you expect to pull off a repeat in your first year?

CH: I know a lot of people were not expecting us to win a championship in 2002-2003, especially after losing Jordan (Leopold), Johnny Pohl, and Jeff Taffe. When Grant (Potulny) hurt his leg at the beginning of the year, I think that a lot of people had shoved us to the side in terms of championship contenders, but we had great leadership from our upperclassmen who kept us afloat until Grant returned. After he got back into the lineup, it was like we were shot out of a cannon. Travis Weber and Justin Johnson were great for us in the second half of the season and we felt almost invincible towards the end of the year. It didn't hurt that we had Thomas Vanek on our side, either.

GS: What is your most memorable hockey moment outside of college?

CH: Outside of college, my most memorable moment would be winning the Clark Cup (playoffs) and Gold Cup (national championship) with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL.  We had an unbelievable team that included my future teammates Keith Ballard, Jake Fleming, and Dan Welch.

GS: What is the one team you looked forward to playing the most? Which visiting arenas had the best atmosphere?

CH: We played so many great teams over my four years, and had so many great rivalries within the WCHA, but the best games were always against Wisconsin and North Dakota. Practices the week of those games were always a little more spirited.

GS: Who was the best player you ever played with and/or against (at any level)?

CH: No question the best player that I have ever played with or against would be Thomas Vanek. He was at another level on the ice. He did things in practice that you would have to see to believe, and some of the goals he scored in games were unbelievable. We called him "Teen Wolf" because he would do things on the ice that an ordinary player couldn't do.

GS: What have you done since you left Minnesota and what are you doing today?

CH: After I graduated from Minnesota, I played for two years with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. After that I left to go play in Dusseldorf, Germany in the DEL for two years, and now I am in my second season playing for the Oji Eagles in Japan.

GS: To what extent do you follow Gopher hockey today? Do you still keep in touch with the players you played with at the U?

CH: I have followed the Gopher hockey program religiously ever since I graduated. There is a sense of pride watching all of the new guys continue the tradition of "Minnesota's Pride On Ice".  This year has been great watching the team get back to the championship-level caliber of play. They have a great team this year and hands down the best staff in college hockey. The future of Gopher hockey is in great hands, and will continue to be the premier college hockey program in the country.

I keep in close contact with my former teammates. Many of us are scattered all over the world playing, so it is a little more difficult keeping in contact during the season. But, when summer rolls around, it seems like there is a magnet pulling us all together and we see each other all the time. Thomas Vanek has started an annual street hockey tournament at his house, and we have a blast. My best friends are guys that I played with at the U. We share a common bond that will forever link us together. I am grateful for the chance to play with those guys and to forge lasting friendships with them all.

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