By: Russ Hryvnak | Twitter: @RussWBS
When Alain Nasreddine heard he was going to be part of the first class of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Hall of Fame it was hard for him to contain his emotion.
“To be honest, I am really happy to be a part of the first class,” Nasreddine said. “I thought at some point I might make it, but to me it was important to be part of that first class. It is something I am extremely proud of and happy with. To be alongside Dennis Bonvie in this first class really means a lot to me.”
Drafted by the Florida Panthers in the sixth round of the 1993 National Hockey League Entry Draft, Nasreddine played nine professional seasons before coming to the Penguins. The Montreal born defenseman arrived at the end of the 2003-04 regular season, right before Wilkes-Barre/Scranton made a playoff run that led them to the Calder Cup Finals.
“The best two memories I have as a player here would have to be the Calder Cup runs we had,” Nasreddine recalled. “My first year here and my last year here we made it to the finals. Obviously coming up short wasn’t what we wanted, but I thought it was a great run. The second, in 2007-08, was special with the way we made it all the way to the finals, winning an overtime game and finishing the series in seven games.”
Getting to hold a statue of yourself isn’t something that a lot of people can claim they have done. Nasreddine is one of the few people who say he has done just that.
“Well, it was a lot better looking than the bobble head,” Nasreddine chuckled. “It was very cool. They did a really good job with the statues. I had a chance to see Dennis’ statue and I thought that one was also done really well. We have a bunch of them around the house now and I was really happy with how they came out.”
In his five seasons with the Penguins, Nasreddine played 249 games and totaled 13 goals and 42 assists as well as 302 penalty minutes. During his playing days, he assumed the role of a shutdown defenseman. Often a thankless job, the former blue-liner says he placed a lot of importance on not being noticed.
“I always took pride in that,” he said. “A lot of players like to put up points, but I knew that was never going to be my thing. I wasn’t known as a skill player, I always made it through on hard work and grit, but you need every type of player on a team. You need those guys that are going to shut down the other team’s top lines and their power play. I actually enjoyed that, I was proud of it and to me, at the end of the night, if I did my job right I would often go unnoticed. The coaching staff was obviously well aware of it, but that is what my career was all about and that is what allowed me to play 15 years in pro hockey.”
As the Assistant Coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the past three seasons, Nasreddine is applying what he knows to help the up and coming defensemen on the team. With his extensive knowledge on the defensive side of the puck, he is happy to help these young men achieve their goals and dreams of playing professionally.
“Nothing replaces playing,” the coach said. “But if I’m not playing hockey, this is the next best thing. To be able to help the young guys is great and that is what I was doing in my last few years as a player anyway. Being able to watch your players grow and make it to the NHL is something special. I don’t think there is a better reward than that. When you get a phone call from a player to thank you for the time you spent with them, that means the world to me. It is probably the biggest reason I do this job.
“I spent most of my career in the minor leagues and I also was called up and sent back down, so I know how to deal with those situations. It is fun when the player gets called up, but it’s a different dynamic when that player gets sent back down. You need to refocus. I think that is where I can relate to them, because it happened to me during my career.”
Even though Nasreddine wishes he could still be playing, there is one thing that he says he doesn’t miss about the game.
“I don’t miss getting banged up,” he said laughing. “I don’t miss getting hit left and right and getting my head smashed off of the boards either. My knee actually feels good now, better than it has in years, but that is about the only think I don’t miss.”
The Penguins have made the playoffs all three years that the current coaching staff has been there. Nasreddine says this is a success, but there is still a higher goal to achieve.
“If you look at our track record over the last three years, we have always been competing for top team in the league,” he said. “We put in a lot of time and effort, but we get the rewards in terms of making the playoffs. I know that this city has been waiting for a championship and hopefully we will bring it this year. To be honest, it would mean more to me to bring the Calder Cup here as a coach. As a player you always want to play that last game and win it, but now that I have seen the other side, what the coaches go through, I would be extremely proud of winning it as a coach.”
Nasreddine’s contributions, both as a player and a coach, have earned him a spot in the first class inducted into the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Hall of Fame. Being honored in such a way, prompted the former player to say how grateful he was.
“The fans here in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton are unbelievable,” he said. “The support that we get is unreal. I know that they want this cup badly, but I want them to know that we put all of our heart into it every year and we will never give up.”
As a shutdown defenseman, Nasreddine may have gone unnoticed on many nights, but on February 22, he will be one of three that will never be forgotten. Alain Nasreddine: Never Unnoticed
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