Eric Nesterenko, longtime Blackhawks forward, dies at 88

Eric Nesterenko, a Blackhawks forward for 16 years and a member of the 1961 Stanley Cup championship team, died Monday. He was 88.

A native of Flin Flon, Manitoba, Nesterenko entered the NHL with the Maple Leafs in 1952 but spent most of his career on the Hawks, donning the red and white from 1956 to 1972. He was a two-time NHL All-Star in 1961 and 1965.

Versatile in his talent for both scoring and fighting, Nesterenko tallied 207 goals, 288 assists and 1,014 penalty minutes in 1,013 career games for the Hawks. He ranks seventh in franchise history in career games played –Jonathan Toews passed him for sixth in the Hawks’ last game of the 2021-22 season — and ninth in career penalty minutes.

Alongside fellow Hawks legends like Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Pierre Pilote and Glenn Hall, Nesterenko aided the 1961 Hawks’ championship run with 38 points and 127 penalty minutes in 68 regular-season appearances and another five points in 11 playoff appearances as the Hawks beat the Canadiens and Red Wings to win the Cup.

Eric Nesterenko (center) embraces teammates Bill Hay (left) and Bobby Hull (right) in the Blackhawks’ locker room after the 1961 Stanley Cup-winning game against the Red Wings.

Sun-Times file photo

He spent his last season (1973-74) with the Chicago Cougars of the World Hockey Association before enjoying a colorful post-hockey career, starring alongside Rob Lowe in the 1986 hockey movie Youngblood and working as a ski instructor in Vail, Colorado.

“My best years were in Chicago,” Nesterenko told the Sun-Times in 1986 while promoting the movie. “I miss it.”

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