One of the fondest memories of Ben Eager’s career came in 2004-05, when he, side-by-side with Flyers Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Riley Cote and now Chicago Blackhawk teammate Patrick Sharp, brought the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup home to Philadelphia.
But now, as members of the Blackhawks ready to face a few of their old comrades in the Stanley Cup finals, both Eager and Sharp will have to put friendships and the past behind him and start preparing for war.
“I started my career there,” Eager told the Chicago Tribune about Philadelphia. “I actually was fortunate to win a Calder Cup championship down there with their farm team. That’s a memory that sticks out. Sharp was there with me so that was pretty cool. We have some friends there but we have put that aside for this round.”
The rough, tough and smart-mouthed 26-year-old spent three limited years with the Flyers and five years total in Philadelphia before being traded to Chicago in 2007 for defenseman Jim Vandameer. By doing things like asking then Pittsburgh Penguins forward Colby Armstrong if he could use his nose as a bottle opener, Eager became a fan favorite. The Philly faithful know exactly what Eager brings to the table and likewise.
“They’re pretty intense there,” Eager said of Philly. “They like hard work and they like tough play. It’s going to be an intense series and there’s going to be a lot of checks thrown … especially in their barn.”
For Sharp, a third round draft pick by the Flyers in 2001, facing his old squad is a similar experience.
“Carter and Richards were guys that I played with a little bit and won a championship with in the American League,” said Sharp, whose trade to Chicago in 2005-06 for Matt Ellison is still considered one of the worst in organizational history. “The closest I am with anybody over there is the trainer, Derek Settlemyre, who was the Phantoms’ trainer for three years with me and then he graduated to the NHL with me.
“He’s my friend, but not for the next couple weeks.”