Alumni Corner: Erik Westrum

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Go Gophers! Erik Westrum
Go Gophers!
Erik Westrum, who is currently playing in Switzerland, had 168 points and 307 penalty minutes as a Gopher.
Go Gophers!
Two-time Golden Gopher captain Erik Westrum had a memorable four-year career at Minnesota that culminated with the team's first trip to the NCAA Tournament in four years (and first ever under current head coach Don Lucia), setting up back-to-back national championship runs in 2002 and 2003. Westrum, one of UM's 15 all-time leading scorers, has played hockey in the pro ranks ever since his college days ended. He recently took some time to catch up with and look back on his time at the U. What was your time like at Minnesota and what is your favorite Mariucci Arena memory?

EW: My time at the U of M was everything I expected and more.  I have some of the greatest memories of my life. The hockey and school friends I made have been life long.  The education is one of the best and the teachers and facilities were great. I have so many great memories at Mariucci Arena, but a special one for any Gopher Hockey player is always playing your first game and scoring your first goal. It was a dream come true to wear the Maroon and Gold following in my dad's footsteps. Being a two-time captain, as well as playing with my brother Ryan, is also an everlasting memory. Mariucci was like a second home for me during my four years.

GS: At Minnesota, you played under accomplished coaches Doug Woog and Don Lucia. How were the two coaches different and what was it like transitioning between the two midway through your college career?

EW: It was a great experience playing for two unbelievable coaches. Doug gave me a chance to play as a freshman and had a lot of confidence in me to play in any situation.  His approach to myself and our team was the foundation for the two championships in 2002 and 2003. He instilled leadership and confidence in myself at an early age (I had just turned 18 going into my freshman year). He trusted me at forward, defense, PP and PK. It was an honor to play for such a legendary coach, but most importantly a great person too. Don brought a fresh start to the program and, just like Doug, gave me the opportunity to lead our team. With the learning curve of the ups and downs my first two years it was easier for me to transition to Don with the things Doug taught me. Instantly Don and I created a relationship and friendship that helped us bring the team together and get back to the winning tradition of Golden Gopher Hockey. Don did a great job with relating to our team and getting the most out of each player. I was fortunate to play for two of the best coaches in the history of Gopher Hockey!

GS: Just like this year's senior class, you hadn't played in an NCAA Tournament heading into your final season. How rewarding was it to finally make it in as a senior?

EW: It was very rewarding. With all the time and commitment you put into hockey, your goal is always to win a championship. It was a great experience to play in the NCAA tournament, but it was even more rewarding to see my teammates win back-to-back national titles. I feel that the foundation was laid with our leadership and experiencing the highs and lows of the learning curve. It just made us closer and stronger as a team.

GS: You left the U as the 13th leading scorer in school history with 168 points, but you are also seventh all-time with 307 penalty minutes. You were also one of the WCHA's top shorthanded point producers, as well. How would you describe your own style of play?

EW: I always played with an edge, a competitive edge. I hated losing and I think that is what led to so many penalty minutes; frustration, backing up my teammates and putting fear into the opposing team. I would consider myself an offensive minded player who is both a playmaker and goal scorer. It all depended what we needed and what the situation was (PP, PK, or even strength). I would describe myself as a team player with a creative mind for the game. It was always about having fun first!

GS: As a Minnesota native, did you feel more pressure wearing the Maroon and Gold in your college years or playing professionally?

EW: For me it was about the love of the game and the only pressure I felt came from within. All elite athletes have that built within themselves. They want to be the best player on the ice no matter what the situation or the opponent. I always had high goals for myself and trying to reach those goals was fun and that is where the pressure came from.

GS: You've played hockey at many different levels and in many different locations, including time in the NHL. Who was the best player you ever played with and/or against?

EW: As a young kid I always wanted to play with or against Wayne Gretzky. In training camp one year in Phoenix I had the opportunity to play with and against Wayne. It was an experience I will never forget and will always remember. Just being on the ice with the greatest player of all time was unbelievable. I was in awe the whole game.

GS: What is your favorite hockey memory outside of college?

EW: I have been so blessed with my hockey career that it is hard to name just one.  Outside of my college career, a few of them are: winning the State Championship in '96, playing my first NHL game, scoring my first NHL point, playing for the Wild, playing for Team USA and winning silver and bronze medals. There are so many more, I could go on forever.

GS: What are you up to this year?

EW: Playing professional hockey in Switzerland for Ambri-Piotta and trying to recover from a concussion. It's been a difficult year trying to recover and I'm just hoping to get back on the ice again sometime in the near future.

GS: During college, where was your favorite place to eat on campus? How did you spend most of your time away from the rink?

EW: For favorite places to eat, Campus Pizza was an every week thing. Jim was great to us and was always open no matter what time we finished our games. I remember one day I ate there three times: lunch, pre-game, and post-game. Nothing like a great pizza! Big Ten sub was always a great pick too!

Away from the rink I would always be hanging out with teammates or friends. I spent a lot of time at the Library!

GS: To what extent do you follow Gopher Hockey today?

EW: Most of my information comes from the internet, checking scores and standings. I keep in touch with former players and we usually talk about Gopher Hockey and what is going on with the team. Each week I always get the scoop from my dad who is a scout with the Montreal Canadiens. He is usually at one game every weekend when the Gophers are home.  Playing professional hockey, I still haven't been able to get a game since the last time I played. I'm hoping to take my two boys in years to come. Go Gophers!

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