The Versatile Eric Selleck Who's There for his Teammates on and off the Ice

Author: Connor Gilson, for PHPA.com
Date: Jun 30, 2017

Tucson Roadrunners forward Eric Selleck is a prime example of a player who understands his role and is willing to help his team at all costs. He is always mindful that hockey is a team sport and that stable inter-team dynamics and a positive atmosphere are key attributes to a successful season. With those values in mind, along with his skill, physicality, and character, Selleck has been fortunate to live his dream of playing professional hockey and reach the NHL, while helping mentor the next generation of players.

Selleck’s road to the NHL began in the Central Junior Hockey League (CJHL) with the Pembroke Lumberkings in 2005-06. Little did he know he was about to join a team that would go on to win three straight championships.  “I had great teammates who wanted to win and had the talent to take home championships,” said Selleck, who was a key contributor to that success, becoming a reliable point getter while remaining true to his physical style of play. “I’ve always been a physical player. I actually made that team as a physical guy and just kind of molded into a more complete player.”

The numbers speak for themselves as Selleck finished his final year with 81 points plus 120 penalty minutes. He credited his new found scoring success to coach Sheldon Keefe, who educated him about the game. “First coach I ever had that really taught me the game and how to play.”

From there, Selleck was ready to take on his next challenge at the collegiate level. After some deliberation, he committed to Oswego State University of New York for the 2008-09 season.  Enrolling in their business administration program, he knew he made the right choice.

“Good organization over there. They had a brand new arena coming in and I wanted to play on a good team. They had great fans and were always at the top of the league standings which made it easier to go.”

Selleck also had the good fortune to be joining a number of fellow Lumberking teammates, and knew this fact would make the transition easier. He adjusted quickly to his new team and surroundings and became their strongest offensive producer. In his second and final year at Oswego, Selleck led the entire conference with 54 points in 28 games, narrowly missing the two-points per game plateau.

That stellar season at Oswego would prove to be a vital step in his hockey career. Although he had been undrafted to the NHL, he had previously established a relationship with Florida Panthers scout Mike Gallagher. Gallagher was a fan of Selleck’s game which provided some motivation to continue to keep playing hard and prove he was a worthy talent.  “Once my second year of college ended, I got a call from the General Manager of the Florida Panthers who asked if I wanted to grab a coffee.  I didn’t know what to expect.  So I met him for a coffee and was offered an opportunity to play at the professional level.  I had to take it and run with it as that type of opportunity doesn’t come very often for Division 3 players.”

That Fall, after proving himself at training camp, Selleck began his pro career playing in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Rochester  Americans, who were the top affiliate of the Florida Panthers at the time. He entered that 2010-11 year with some uncertainty on what his role would be moving forward, and how he would best suit his team. “I wasn’t too sure how I was going to fit in to the overall plan.  Since I was a goal scorer in junior, a goal scorer in college, I thought I was going to be able to come in and score goals and help the team that way.”

It did not take very long for the Brockville, Ontario native to realize that his role was going to shift and that he would have to adapt.  Moving forward, his coaches told him he needed to be stronger defensively, finish his checks, and stand up on behalf of his teammates when needed. “I bought into that role. I wanted to stick as a pro hockey player. I wanted to make sure I made it.”

Selleck finished his rookie campaign in the AHL with 5 goals and 11 assists in 67 games to go along with 214 penalty minutes.  He followed up that season with 9 points in 71 games and 204 penalty minutes.

In 2012-13, Selleck was still excelling in his new found role when he received the call he had been waiting for his whole life.  He was going to dress for an NHL game. Overwhelmed with emotion, he was not sure what to expect. “You finally get that call.  You’ve been waiting for that call your whole life. It’s definitely surreal. It’s almost like you don’t believe it but then when you get onto that flight, you realize you’re going to join the NHL team.”

In his first two games with the Panthers, Selleck was able to nab his first career NHL assist on a nice play finished by Scottie Upshall.  Throughout those two games, he also stayed true to his enforcer role and picked up 17 penalty minutes. Five of those minutes came after a tough fight against Kevin Westgarth of the Carolina Hurricanes, one that saw Selleck take a serious blow.  “Initially right after, I was like, what was I doing (laughs)? But at the end of the day, it’s not how many you win, it’s how many you show up for.  I wanted to show my teammates I had their backs.”

The next three seasons would see Selleck play for four different teams including the San Antonio Rampage, Chicago Wolves, Portland Pirates, and Springfield Falcons, all in the AHL. He knew this was part of the game.  But being the sociable guy he is, Selleck always knew at least a few guys from each new team he joined, making the transitions that much easier. The toughest part for Selleck though was the full uprooting that comes along with each move. “All of your stuff is in Texas and then all of a sudden you have to move it all to Chicago, and then figure out where you’re going to go the next year.”

Selleck played one more game in the NHL with the Arizona Coyotes during the 2015-16 season before becoming part of the inaugural season for the Tucson Roadrunners this year. “Nobody really knew what to expect. You can’t ask players who have played there previously. It was definitely exciting to be the first guys down there.”

The first season went well.  The team was in first place for a while before eventually slipping down in their division. That said, Selleck enjoyed his new team and location. “The new guys they have brought in have gelled really nicely.  And the weather is amazing.”

However, the season did encounter a dark moment when on November 19, 2016, team captain Craig Cunningham collapsed on the ice before the game began. He required intensive surgery to save his life. The incident, diagnosed as an acute cardiac arrest, resulted in an infection that cost Cunningham his leg and his chance of playing professional hockey. This tragedy deeply impacted Selleck and the rest of the Roadrunners.

“I’ve played with Craig the last two years, and he’s one of my best friends.  He’s a great guy.” Selleck added that the team struggled to cope with the issue over the next several weeks, constantly thinking about Cunningham and his family. Cunningham survived thanks to a great medical team and has since made miraculous strides in his recovery, already beginning to skate again. “He’s the same guy. He’s an amazing and strong person. His family is incredibly strong.  I made a good connection with them over the time they were here. Our prayers were with him and they were answered.”  During those tough times, Selleck believes the strength of the coaching staff and dressing room leaders were vital in helping the team overcome the obstacle as a unit.

One of those dressing room leaders is Selleck himself, who takes pride in being his team’s Player Representative for the Professional Hockey Players’ Association.  “Me being an older guy, I’ve been around.  I’ve seen situations with other players and am fortunately now in a position to help them whether it’s with medical issues or their financial situations and anything in between.” He recommends that any player that would like to absorb as much information as possible about the inside operations of the sport should become a Player Rep for their respective club. Selleck recently took part in the PHPA’s 50th Annual Meeting of Player Representatives in Orlando, Florida, a meeting that he has attended the past several years, representing various teams.

Selleck has had a memorable hockey journey that isn’t over yet.  Regardless of the team he is playing for, his presence as a team leader who looks after his teammates both on and off the ice will serve him well as a key piece in capturing another hockey championship. 

 

Follow the author on twitter: @Cgilson88

 

 

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