Erickson Was More Than Just “Face In The Crowd”
When he was 18 years old, Bryan “Butsy” Erickson received an issue of Sports Illustrated in the mail, which didn’t seem so unusual until he turned to the “Faces in the Crowd” section. There, he found his picture featured along with his high school linemates and next-door neighbors, Neal and Aaron Broten.
“It was really surreal,” Erickson recalls. “I didn’t really know we were doing anything special. We just played because it was fun.”
Erickson grew up in Roseau, Minn., a small town near the Canadian border known for consistently producing teams that contended for the Minnesota high school state championship. Erickson was a right wing on one of the most prolific lines in the history of Minnesota high school hockey, helping guide the team to two undefeated seasons.
At the University of Minnesota, Erickson put up 238 career points, and in 1982 captained the team to an 18-7-1 record and took home the team’s leadership and sportsmanship award.
He began his NHL career with the Washington Capitals after graduating from Minnesota and soon got an opportunity to play on Team USA in the 1984 Canada Cup with Rod Langway, Bryan Trottier, and Chris Chelios.
“Playing in the Canada Cup was a huge thrill for me,” says Erickson, who had two goals and two assists in the tournament. “Five years earlier I didn’t even know if I was going to play hockey after high school. I ended up going to Minnesota, and I graduated in ’83 and the next year I’m playing with the best players in the world.”
Erickson returned to the Capitals after the Canada Cup and played in 351 career games before retiring from professional hockey in 1994. He coached the Roseau Bantam boys’ team until just last season. Although Erickson has plenty of memories to choose from, he is quick to decide which of them will forever be his favorite.
“I certainly liked the paychecks every two weeks in the NHL,” jokes Erickson, who claims there is no interesting story behind the genesis of his nickname. “But for hockey, my favorite times were playing at the University of Minnesota. I loved the guys and the atmosphere; I loved everything about it.”
Lawton Laces Skates To Compete At Nationals
Life of an NHL general manager is a 24/7 existence. Still, Brian Lawton managed to take time out from his duties of running the Tampa Bay Lightning to lace up the skates and compete in the 40 & Over National Championship tournament at the Brandon (Fla.) Ice Sports Forum.
The competitive fire still burns bright for the former No. 1 overall pick of the Minnesota North Stars in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, as Lawton led his La Palestra NYC team to the title game where they fell to the Chicago Sharks, 6-5.
Lawton took over the reins of executive vice president and general manager of the Lightning early in the 2009 season, overseeing all aspects of the team’s hockey operations department.
Before joining the Lightning, Lawton spent 14 years as a player agent.
In addition to a 483-game NHL career, in which he scored 112 goals and 266 points, Lawton represented the U.S. on several occasions.
Where Are They Now?
A 2007 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductee and the 1986 Vezina Trophy winner, John Vanbiesbrouck is widely considered one of the best American goaltenders in the history of hockey.
He spent 10 seasons of his 19-year career with the New York Rangers, who drafted him 72nd overall in 1981. After being traded to Florida, he backstopped the Panthers to the franchise’s only Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 1996.
Internationally, he appeared in four IIHF World Championships and played alongside former Ranger teammate Mike Richter in the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.
Vanbiesbrouck hung up his skates in 2002 and is now committed to helping players of all ages excel on the ice with his latest project, vbksportsviewer.com. The Web site, which launched on June 15, allows users to upload video of their games and practices, create clips and use various tools to evaluate their play.
“I think it’s really going to help and assist people involved in the long-term development program,” says Vanbiesbrouck, who is an athlete director with USA Hockey’s board of directors.
“We’re encouraging people to videotape their practices in order to see themselves and change the scope of what they do, creating a different type of advanced education in hockey.”