|By Chris Maza
Wilbraham native Bill Guerin brought the Stanley Cup to Wilbraham & Monson’s Lak Dining Hall in 1995 after winning the championship with the New Jersey Devils.
Photo courtesy of Wilbraham & Monson Academy
WILBRAHAM – While he was passed over in his first year of eligibility for the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Wilbraham native Bill Guerin didn’t have to wait much longer to be immortalized.
Guerin, who attended Wilbraham & Monson Academy and played hockey for the Springfield Olympics (‘Pics) under the late Gary Dineen, was selected to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame, it was announced on July 25.
“It’s very emotional and very humbling,” Guerin said of being elected. “I’ve always taken pride in the fact that I was able to represent my country, so to receive this type of honor was very humbling for me. It was a big thing in my life and for my family.”
Even before the honor, Guerin was regarded as one of the best American-born hockey players of all time.
He was the fifth overall pick of the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the 1989 National Hockey League NHL Entry Draft and after two years at Boston College where he was part of two Hockey East Conference regular season championship teams (1989-90, 1990-91) and one Hockey East tournament championship (1989-90), he played his first NHL game during the 1991-92 season.
He went on to win two Stanley Cups – at 24 years old with the New Jersey Devils and again 14 years later with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He appeared in four All-Star games and was Most Valuable Player of the 2001 exhibition.
He announced his retirement on Dec. 7, 2010 at the age of 40 after 18 years in the league.
Among American-born players, he is 13th – and 10th among forwards – in career points with 856. He also ranks seventh in goals (429), fourth in game-winning goals (77) and eighth in power play goals (130).
He ranks 16th in playoff points by an American with 74, including 39 goals, which ranks ninth all-time among Americans.
In international play, he suited up in red, white and blue three times in the Olympic Games (1998, 2002, 2006), earning a silver medal in the Games in Salt Lake City in 2002. He also appeared in two World Cup of Hockey tournaments and helped the U.S win the gold medal at the inaugural tourney in 1996. He also represented the U.S. in the World Junior Championships in 1989 and 1990.
Guerin admitted that he hadn’t given any thought at all to post-career honors.
“Not at all, really,” he said. “I think as a professional athlete you have to live so much in the now in order to focus and in order to be successful and in order to have consistency in what you do. We play because we love the game and these things come after years of doing that.”
Guerin now makes his living as a member of the Penguins’ hockey operations department as a player development coach, a position in which he tutors young athletes in the organization.
“My role is helping to develop our young prospects – draft picks and players with [American Hockey League affiliate] Scranton-Wilkes Barre – and give them the tools necessary to become NHL players and help the Pittsburgh Penguins win Stanley Cups,” he said. “I’m not a scout. We have a tremendous scouting staff. When we make our draft pick selections, that’s when my job starts. I try to have a hand in their development from the day they’re drafted to us.”
It’s a role, he said, he’s embracing largely because it didn’t exist when he was a young player.
“It’s a lot different. Now most teams have former players who are usually recently retired involved in player development and they really try to bring guys along step by step and help them,” he said. “It’s almost like personalized help for these guys. You follow them so closely and you’re always talking with them and you’re always in contact with them and their junior or college coaches and you don’t leave anything to chance. You don’t just say, ‘Figure it out;’ you help them figure it out.
“Back when I started, we didn’t have player development guys. We had coaches and they didn’t necessarily always have the time to give you. You had to figure it out on your own. There were definitely some people who helped out along the way, but you definitely had to step out and find other sources. Gary Dineen was the guy I could always call on for advice and for help,” he continued.
In looking toward the future, Guerin said he would like to expand his role eventually, but not into coaching.
“I’ve gotten a bit of coaching in my role now, but I don’t think that’s the path that I’m going to go for. I’m thinking more of a managerial path,” he said. “But right now I’m taking my job day by day and trying to get as much experience as I can and learn as much as I can in every field.”
One thing he told Reminder Publications shortly after his retirement was the fact that he was looking forward to having more time to spend at home with his daughters and son, which is something his current role allows him.
“I still do quite a bit of traveling and it is a full-time job, but I just feel right now like when I’m home, I’m home. I don’t have to go to the office every day; I don’t have to go to the rink every day and to me, that’s a bonus,” he said. “I get to drive my kids to school when I’m home, I get to drive my son to hockey and my girls to lacrosse and it’s fantastic.”
Comments From Our Readers:
Login to Post a Response