June 15, 2009
Notre Dame, Ind. - Former Notre Dame defenseman Mark Eaton reached the pinnacle of his professional career on Friday, June 12th when he, along with his Pittsburgh Penguins' teammates, captured the 2009 Stanley Cup with a 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Mich.
Eaton, who played one season for the Irish (1997-98) before signing with the Philadelphia Flyers as a free agent in 1998, capped his third season in Pittsburgh as a key member of the Penguins' defensive corps that saw the Pens rally from a 2-0 deficit to win the series four games to three over Detroit. With the win, Pittsburgh became the first National Hockey League team since the 1971 Montreal Canadiens to lose the first two games of the series and then go on to win the Stanley Cup and the first road team in any professional sport since 1979 to win a game seven in the championship series on the road.
The 32-year old defenseman becomes the fourth Notre Dame player to get his name on the Stanley Cup, joining Bill Nyrop'74 (Montreal Canadiens, 1975-78), Don Jackson `78 (Edmonton Oilers, 1982-83) and Brett Lebda `04 (Detroit Red Wings, 2008). Nyrop and Jackson each won three Stanley Cups.
As a member of the Irish hockey team, Eaton had an immediate impact in his one season at Notre Dame. He scored 12 goals with 17 assists for 29 points during the 1997-98 season, winning the team's William Donald Nyrop Award as the team's top defenseman after being named to the CCHA rookie of the year and being named to the conference's all-rookie team.
A native of Wilmington, Del., Eaton finished his third season with Pittsburgh where he turned in his best year to date, playing in 68 regular season games, scoring four goals with five assists for nine points. He was +3 on the year and finished third on the team with 148 blocked shots.
In the postseason, Eaton, who teamed with Kris Letang as one of Pittsburgh's defensive pairs, played in all 24 games, scoring four goals with three assists for seven points while being +4. His four goals tied Letang for most among Penguins' defensemen while his 46 blocked shots were third on the squad.
During his first two seasons with the Pittsburgh, Eaton battled injuries, playing in just 71 games (35 in `06-'07 and 36 in `07-'08) picking up six assists before this successful campaign.
Following Friday's game seven win, Eaton talked to the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) about winning the Cup.
"I would trade those two years (with the injuries) to win the cup any day. It's surreal right now. It's such a great group of guys to be able to win it with makes it that much more special. It's unbelievable," said Eaton.
In the interview, he credited team defense to the success of the Penguins all season long.
"Defense is a five-man game, it's not just the two defensemen and the goalie out on the ice," said Eaton.
"Our forwards did a great job all playoffs long of having their positioning, having the third man high to let us keep a good gap. They did a great job in the offensive zone, keeping the puck in the zone. The best defense is a good offense and they did a great job of cycling all playoffs."
Eaton closes out his ninth season in the NHL with the Stanley Cup. During his career, he has played in 452 career games with 20 goals and 42 assists for 62 points, splitting time between Philadelphia, Nashville and Pittsburgh.