Apr 28, 2014; Saint Paul, MN, USA; A general view of the Xcel Energy Center prior to game six of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Colorado Avalanche and the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Wild A-Z: Chris Armstrong

Today’s edition of Minnesota Wild A-Z features Chris Armstrong, a veteran of 7 NHL games, three of which were with the Minnesota Wild in their first season in 2000-01.   C’mon, you remember Chris don’t you?  The veteran of 10 AHL & IHL teams over a 17 year span, with two brief appearances in the NHL in 2000-01 with Minnesota and 2003-04 for 4 games with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.  This guy has to have an impressive personal jersey collection.  Since his WHL debut with the Moose Jaw Warriors in 1991 through his final professional year playing in Europe, Armstrong played for a total of 17 different teams in North America and Europe.  That’s an impressive total and speaks to his dedication to the game of hockey and never giving up the dream.

Chris Armstrong‘s journey to the NHL as a defenseman started with the aforementioned Moose Jaw Warriors in 1991 at the age of 16.  That season he played 43 games scoring 2 goals added 7 assists and accumulated just 19 penalty minutes.  The next year as a 17 year old, his games increased to 67 and he scored 9 goals.  His assist total that season soared to 35 and his PIMS jumped to an impressive 114.  In the 1993 NHL Entry Draft Armstrong was drafted in the third round, 57th overall by the Florida Panthers.  He remained in juniors with the Warriors for another season and his stats jumped again.  In the 1993-94 campaign he skated in 64 games putting up an impressive 13 goals to go with 55 assists for 68 points, an average of just over a point a game.  Big number for a defenseman.  He also cut his penalty minutes by more than half down to 54.  He was definitely showing promise as a potential NHL defenseman.

In 1994 Chris Armstrong was  selected to play for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships.  The 17th annual event was held in Ostrava, Czech Republic.  He skated in 7 games, totaled zero goals and one assist in help Team Canada to their second consecutive gold medal.  Interestingly Armstrong was one of three future Minnesota Wild players on that 1994 WJC Team Canada roster.  Aaron Gavey and Manny Fernandez were also members of that gold medal winning World Junior Championship team and on the initial Wild team in the 2000-01 season.

A total of 18 players on that same WJC team played in the NHL including, Martin Gendron, Jason Allison, Todd Harvey, Anson Carter, Nick Stajduhar, Michael Peca, Marty Murray, Drew Bannister,  Jeff Friesen, Brandon Convery, Jason Botterill, Joel Bouchard, Brendan Witt, Bryan McCabe, and Jamie Storr.  That was one heck of a year and roster for Team Canada.

The 1994-95 season saw Chris Armstrong play his final season in juniors with the Warriors.  His stats for the season were again great for a defenseman as he scored 17 goals and added 54 assists for 71 points in 66 games.  He once again surpassed the point a game average a special achievement for a D-man.  His penalty minutes remained stable as well with just 61 over his final season in the junior ranks.

For the 1995-96 Armstrong moved to the professional ranks as he joined the Carolina Panthers of the AHL.  In his first pro season Armstrong made the transition fairly well scoring 9 goals added 33 assists for 42 points over 78 games as a 20 year old.  The next year the teamwas the Carolina Monarchs and his numbers remained static with 9 goals, 23 helpers, 32 points and just 38 PIMS over 66 games.  Armstrong’s development was apparently not progressing the way the Florida Panthers wanted as he spent the next one plus seasons in the IHL.

In 1997-98 it was the Fort Wayne Komets (8g, 36a, +9 rating, 66 games).  In 1998 he started the season with the Milwaukee Admirals an affiliate of the Nashville Predators after being taken by the team in the expansion draft.  He played five games in Milwaukee before heading to the Hershey Bears in the AHL as a part of the Colorado Avalanche organization.  In 65 games with the Bears Armstrong potted 12 goals added 32 assists for 44 pointa and a +8 rating with 30 penalty minutes.  You may notice a pattern emerging for Chris.  Just twice in his AHL/IHL career did he score double digit goals and just once did he surpass the 40 assist mark.  While he played well he just never seemed to catch on with any NHL franchise.  Chris Armstrong was quickly becoming a journeyman AHL/IHL player not quite able yet to crack a NHL roster.

The 1999-2000 season was Armstrong’s best as far as point production went.  He was now a member of the Kentucky Throughblades of the AHL and a member of the San Jose Sharks organization.  In Kentucky he totaled 9 goals, 48 assists, 57 points,  +12  rating, and 77 PIMS.  Looking at his numbers they were certainly good enough to make a NHL roster, but something in the intangibles category never saw him make a NHL team out of training camp.

In 2000 the NHL added two expansion teams, the Minnesota Wild and the Columbus Blue Jackets.  The Wild drafted Chris Armstrong from the San Jose Sharks with their 7th pick in the expansion draft on June 23rd, 2000.  General Manager Doug Risebrough and Head Coach Jacques Lemaire must have thought they were getting an NHL ready defenseman with that pick.  Armstrong skated in 77 contests for the Wild’s IHL affiliate in 2000-01, the Cleveland Lumberjacks. In those games he produced 9 goals, 32 assists, a +2 rating and 42 PIMS.  By far though the highlight of the 2000-01 season for Chris Armstrong was his NHL debut on March 21st , 2001 against the Nashville Predaators.  He registered no points with three shots on goal in 18:34 of ice time.  Finally after 6 years of toiling in the minors his dream of playing in the NHL was realized.  Armstrong would play two more games with the Wild against the Detroit Red Wings and the Vancouver Canucks.  His stat line for his three games for the Wild reads, 0 goals, 0 assists, -3 rating, o PIMS. He would then return to Cleveland for the remainder of the season.

For the 2001-02 season Chris Armstrong signed a free agent deal with the New York Islanders and played the entire season for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the AHL.  In 80 games he scored 10 goals, added 38 assists for 48 total points.  He had a +6 rating and accumulated 49 PIMS.  The following season in 2002-03 Armstrong jumped to Europe after signing a free agent deal with EV Zug of the Swiss League.  He started the season there and finished it with Augsburger Panther in Germany.  Between the two teams he skated in 43 games scoring 3 goals added 23 assists along with 77 penalty minutes.

Chris Armstrong had not given up on his NHL dreams thought and on June 26th 2003 he signed a free agent contract with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.  He spent the majority of the 2003-04 campaign with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks.  Over 70 games he scored 9 goals and picked up 37 assists with a -12 rating and 48 PIMS.  This would be the last season Armstrong appeared in NHL games.  He played 4 games for the Ducks registering his first and only NHL point, an assist.

After the 2003-04 season Armstong signed another free agent deal to play in Europe.  This time it was with ERC Ingolstadt of the German League.  he would play the next five seasons in Germany, two with Ingolstadt and three with Frankfurt Lions.   His goal scoring and assist number dropped off sharply during this 5 year span as he never scored more than 8 goals or 24 assists.  Armstrong took one last shot at the NHL at the age of 34 by signing an AHL deal with the Springfield Falcons, an affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers.  Over the course of 51 games he totaled 5 goals, 20 assists, a -18 rating and 28 PIMS.  This would be Chris Armstrong’s final season as a professional hockey player.  At the age of 35 he hung up his skates.

Here’s a quick synopsis of Chris Armstrong’s pro career:

7 NHL games over two seasons, 2000-01 and 2003-04.

488 AHL games over 7 seasons

162 IHL games over  4 seasons

265 games in Germany over 6 seasons

21 games  in the Swiss League over 1 season

That’a a total 976 professional hockey games over 15 years.  That’s some serious dedication and perseverance in the pursuit of a dream.  I’ve got to respect any player who shows that willingness to go to any lengths and travel to anywhere to play hockey AND get paid for it.  That wraps up today’s edition of Minnesota Wild A-Z. For those of you counting that’s two down 218 to go.  Up next we’ll be profiling goalie Niklas Backstrom.

 

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