by Cynthia Tremblay || AHL On The Beat Archive
Growing up in St. Cloud, Minn., a small city one hour northwest of Minneapolis, Chris Harrington was surrounded by influences that would one day propel him into the world of professional hockey.
The long and cold winters of Minnesota provided the perfect surroundings for Chris to work on his skating abilities, as at a very young age he was already on his way to following his father’s footsteps.
Chris comes from a hockey family — a very successful hockey family. Not only did his grandfather play the game, but his father John played on the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team that defeated the Soviet Union powerhouse on their way to a gold medal. One could say that having a father who was part of the Miracle on Ice provided Chris with a genetic predisposition to hockey success.
Chris’s father and grandfather laced up his skates and introduced him to the sport of hockey at an early age and he has been playing ever since. Chris took to hockey immediately, yet he had a natural athletic ability which allowed him to excel in just about every sport he played, including football, basketball, soccer and golf. His father was a significant influence on his game despite the fact that Chris had never played for him.
“He was never the coach that stood behind my team bench, but he always came out to games and pushed me in the right direction,” Harrington said. “He was a really great asset to me.”
When it came time to make a choice, Chris decided that his goal was to go to college and play hockey for a Division I program. He moved one step closer to that dream in the 2000-01 season when he went to play for the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League. In his two seasons with the Lancers he accumulated 60 points (16 goals, 44 assists) and 134 penalty minutes in 107 regular-season games, and 14 points (5g, 9a) and 44 PIM in 23 playoff games
His final year with the Lancers was an impressive one as he was named All-USHL Second Team, and was the third-leading scorer for the Anderson Cup champions. Having had such success in Omaha, Chris was presented with many options when it was time for him to make his decision for post-secondary education.
Yet when it came right down to it, “it was a no-brainer,” he says. “I’d always wanted to play Division I hockey.” And off to the University of Minnesota he went. In his freshman campaign with the Golden Gophers, Chris won a national championship and earned himself a Western Collegiate Hockey Association all-rookie selection.
In four years at Minnesota, he racked up impressive numbers over the course of his 129 games with 109 points (14 goals, 95 assists) and 264 PIM. Chris captained the team during his senior year with the program.
While he was at Minnesota, Chris majored in communications and discovered that his favorite class was sign language. He took to it quickly and often found himself following along with the signed interpretation of the class rather than listening to the actual professor. He hasn’t put his signing abilities to the test yet: “I haven’t found many opportunities to use it. I’m really just waiting for an emergency situation where they need someone who can sign and I can come through in the crunch!”
This past spring, Chris was signed by the Toronto Marlies as a free agent. Though he had previously lived in a big city while attending the University of Minnesota, this meant a move to a new country, and to a city where by all accounts, all eyes are on hockey.
The first thing Chris noticed about living in Toronto was not the waterfront, or the CN Tower but rather that Canada, as a nation, has fantastic sports news programming.
“Your [TSN] SportsCentre is awesome,” Chris said. “Back home, hockey hardly gets any airtime and it’s never the top story. I keep telling all my friends back home how great it is!”
On the other hand, he is having difficulty with one particular transition.
“Your toonies and loonies are so frustrating… I just can’t get used to it, having so much change in my pocket, it’s just too much!” Having all that extra change led him to the point where he has now decided that he will no longer spend the confusing coins. He is simply going to collect all toonies and loonies and see how much he can save up.
All exasperating currency issues aside, Chris has adjusted very well to Toronto. Though he was excited by the prospect of playing his first professional regular-season game, he was sidelined with an injury that saw him miss the first two games of the season. Once back in the lineup, he did not waste any time before making quite an impression. On Oct. 15, in only his second game as a professional hockey player, Chris provided the Marlies with strong offense as he racked up one goal and two assists and was named first star of the game.
“It was all pretty exciting,” he said, “I was so nervous my first game because it’s so different than preseason, but my second game went much better obviously; it was cool because I got a chance to score and put up some points.”
Both Chris’s parents and two younger sisters were tuned in to the game and were very excited and proud to hear him have such a successful start to the season.
Though his professional hockey career is still in its early stages, he already has aspirations for his post-hockey playing days.
“When I’m done playing, if my dad is still coaching, I’d love to work with him,” he speaks enthusiastically and with obvious pride. “Maybe be his assistant coach. That would be cool.”
Marlies fans are not yet ready to discuss the end of his hockey days just yet as Chris has been a great surprise this season, leading all Marlies defensemen in scoring with 27 points in 67 games.