Today, former Penguin enforcer Eric Godard retired from the NHL at age 32. The free agent played his last season with the Dallas Stars, spending most of the season with their AHL affiliate the Texas Stars and not stepping foot on NHL ice. Godard was replaced on the Penguins by Steve MacIntyre, whom also spent the majority of his season with the AHL.
Godard won a Stanley Cup with the Pens, but was best known for his willingness to throw down his gloves. His most famous moment other than the Cup, is likely the night of the brawl on Long Island, where he was suspended for 10 games per NHL rules for leaving the bench to engage in a fight.
He may have violated an NHL rule, but he stepped up and defended his teammates amid the chaos.
More than for fighting though, Godard was very well known in Pittsburgh for his charitable work, spending a good deal of time at the Children’s Institute and Children’s Hospital. He had fists of fury, but a heart of gold, and that is what Pittsburgh will be most thankful to him for.
Looking at the situation, one must reexamine the notion that enforcers are needed in the NHL. Not only due to the time these men spend sitting on the bench, wondering how many times they will need to fight just to maintain ice time, but wondering if they will ever skate onto NHL ice again.
In re-watching the 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic featuring the Penguins and Capitals, Caps enforcer Matt Hendricks talking about how his ability to fight is what keeps him in the NHL was appalling, especially in the wake of the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Bekak.
The enforcer role seems not only dated, but dangerous at this point. Is a person who lives and breaths hockey really living his dream if the only thing he contributes to the team is his fists? It is unhealthy and undue stress on a person to actively know that if he doesn’t make another man bleed that he will ride the pine or be placed on waivers.
To Eric Godard, Pittsburgh fans wish you nothing but the best in your next phase of life! Thank you for the memories!