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Recently, I received a couple requests to cover certain players on my “What Happened to…” segment, Eric Daze being one of those requested. Let me start by saying, Eric Daze must have become a Jason Bourne like super spy, cause there is not much information out there on what he has been doing since he was forced to unofficially leave the game of hockey, very quietly and very abruptly several years ago.
Daze, drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 4th round, 90th overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft and at 6’6″ and 222 pounds, had a vast amount of potential as a goal scorer in the NHL. He had a very strong junior career offensively, but fell to the 4th round as many scouts questioned both his skating ability and his toughness.
Daze started with the Hull Olympiques of the QMJHL during the 1992-93 season, before being traded to the Beauport Harfangs. He put up respectable numbers for a rookie with 19 goals and 55 points in 68 games. However, it would be his first full season in Beauport where he would break out. In 66 games during the 1993-94 season, he would go on to score 59 goals and 107 points, followed up by 54 goals and 99 points in 57 games in 1994-95. That season, he won the CHL’s Most Sportsmanlike Player award as well as the Viscount Alexander Award, which goes to the Junior Male Athlete of the Year in the province of Quebec. He was also a key contributor on the Gold Medal Winning World Junior Championship team in 1995.
Daze made his NHL debut with Chicago during the lockout shortened season 1994-95, playing 4 games and scoring a goal. The
following season, his rookie year in the NHL, Daze would score 30 goals and 53 points in 80 games, and 8 points in 10 playoff games, earning him a spot on the NHL’s All Rookie Team. He would take a small step back the following season with 22 goals in 71 games, but returned to the 30 goal scoring club during the 1997-98 season with 31. The next couple seasons would see Daze start to battle the injury bug. Although he still had two straight 20+ goals seasons, he was clearly not as comfortable and effective on the ice.
The 2000-01 season would see Daze set career highs of 33 goals and 57 points, only to surpass that in 2001-02 with 38 goals and 70 points. He also would earn his first (and unfortunately last) opportunity to play in the All-Star game and was the game’s MVP.
While 2002-03 would be good statistically, he would be limited to only 54 games while his ongoing back problems began to become very serious. In 2003-04 he would only play 19 games. Finally, in 2005-06, after the lockout season, he declared himself unable to play after the first period of the first game of the season, maybe not knowing that it would be the last game he ever played.
Over a five year span, Daze had 3 surgeries to repair herniated disks in his back. He made multiple attempts to come back during 2006 and 2007, however, every time he took the ice, he was still be in constant pain. he also visited his former teammates on occasion, spending time in the locker room with them. A reporter spoke to him on January 23, 2008. “I am in semi-retirement,” said Daze. “I did not take my official retirement, but everyone knows I withdrew myself.” He has expressed his desire to be involved in the game of hockey, although it will no longer be as a player.
As far as “What Happened to Eric Daze?” The most anyone knows is that as recent as 2009, he still lives in Chicago and has been seen at many Blackhawk games, even officially signing autographs at the game on January 16th. Many reports of conversations with Daze all have one thing in common, that the man is still in constant pain.
Fans had mixed emotions about Daze over his career. While he possessed amazing talent, a great wrist shot and excellent one-timers, he didn’t use his massive size like a prototypical power-forward or involve himself at all in the hitting aspect of the game.
Like many other players that are forced to leave the game early, people will always use the phrase “What if….?”
Collision between Eric Daze and Keith Jones