Erik Westrum’s mom gave him a plaque bearing a message that he attempts to live out every day.
It reads: God’s gift to you is hockey, what’s your gift to others?
“I think to be able to use that gift and pass it on to other people, that’s really what it’s all about,” said Westrum, who played parts of three seasons in the NHL during an 11-year professional career. “Hockey is platform for so many possible charitable missions and visions and that’s what I want to use as my gift.”
Though Westrum left the playing part of his career in 2012, he continues to use what he learned in the game—both on and off the ice—to help the hockey community in a variety of ways.
MN NHL Alumni: The Westrum name is synonymous with hockey in Minnesota, courtesy of both you and your dad, Pat, who was also a professional player in the World Hockey Association—safe to say he’s been a pretty big influence on you?
Erik Westrum:It’s fun, my dad was around that older generation of hockey, and I remember growing up around of a lot of those guys at the rink, and now I’m a part of the newer generation of hockey working to get (newer alums) more involved and more active in the community.
On top of just growing up around the game, I grew up watching my dad always helping grow the game and just helping those around him. It’s definitely something I wanted to carry on during my playing career and especially once I was done playing. It’s just how I grew up. It was always important to be selfless and give back. When I was playing hockey I was fortunate enough to know a lot of people and have a lot of resources to give back to the charitable causes.
Now today I will help a lot of athletes because my end goal, and my dad’s end goal (who works with Minnesota Hockey), is to get as many kids as we can from Minnesota to the next level. It’s not always the financial aspect of what you can give or money you can raise, but also the time aspect and the knowledge to give.
MN NHL Alumni: One way you’re giving back is coaching the varsity team at Southwest Christian/Richfield. Was coaching the natural next step? And how is your squad looking this year? Is there a chance for a run at state?
Westrum:When I was playing hockey, I was always giving back to the community. I helped train players at Apple Valley High School (my alma mater) during the summer and get them ready for the season. Then I moved to Prior Lake and helped train that team up until two years ago when I took the Southwest Christian job. We play as an Independent team and we’ve got a tough section to get through, teams like Orono and Minnetonka, so we’re definitely underdogs, and it’d be quite a run if we made it to state.
MN NHL Alumni: You’ve managed to find plenty of success off the ice, too. How did you get involved with State Farm as your post-playing career choice?
Westrum:For me I was blessed with my dad on the hockey side, and my mom was a school teacher so it was always, ‘you have to have good grades if you want to play sports’ and ‘hey get the school work done first on the frontend so you’re not playing catch up on the backend.’ Fast forward and I get my degree at the Carlson School of Management (at the University of Minnesota). Then throughout my pro career I’d always take a course toward my Masters, or in the summer I’d come back and work with different finance institutes because I knew my career after sports was going to be way longer than your career in sports, so I wanted to make sure I set myself up.
One summer I did the State Farm thing, went through the process, wrote the business plan, got accepted into the pool which you can be in for three years. I was still playing hockey at the time and then once my career ended, I went back to get my Masters at the Carlson School. For me, I wanted to have the flexibility to help coach and be around my kids, so the State Farm opportunity came up down here in Prior Lake and I ended up jumping on it. It’s been over five years now and I haven’t looked back.
MN NHL Alumni: How often are you still in touch with former teammates?
Westrum:It’s definitely more challenging with teammates kind of spread out all over the world, and with a lot of us having young kids of our own. At the same time though, the hockey world is so small that you often run into someone one way or another. I talked with Jimmy Dowd recently who I hadn’t seen in 12 years but you would never know it. When you do see each other, you pick up right where you left off, it’s crazy.
MN NHL Alumni: Final words?
Westrum:I just think what the Alumni Association is trying to do is so important. I think it’s important for all players to give back to the community that’s helped you. We have been blessed with this hockey platform, so to have the alumni association working around the clock to give back and help other people around us is really special. They continue to have the right mission and the right vision and it’s up to us alumni to help pull it together and make a difference.