MINNEAPOLIS — Anglet, France, is, by all accounts, a fantastic place to spend the winter. Located in the southwest corner of the country, minutes from the coastal beaches and the renowned Basque region of Spain, it was an enjoyable home for former Minnesota Gophers goaltender Eric Schierhorn during his first season of professional hockey.
As it turned out, 2019-20 was also Schierhorn’s last season of pro hockey. When the campaign came to an end for Anglet Hormadi, which plays in France’s top pro league, and Schierhorn returned to Minnesota hours before the major lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic began, he made the decision to quietly retire from the game and begin his “real” career in financial planning.
“I’m done. It kind of ran its course. I was never going to be a guy that played as long as he could,” said Schierhorn, who played his final game as a Gopher on March 2, 2019, in a 5-2 home win over Arizona State. “I went over to France and had my fun over there, and it was fun, but I didn’t see myself playing another year in Europe. It served its purpose for being a fun and cool experience, but you miss America when you’re over there.”
Great Gophers debut
With his goalie pads in a bag, untouched since he returned to the United States, Schierhorn has moved into the financial planning world, putting his business marketing degree from the U of M to work for a firm run by former Gophers forward Ben Clymer. Schierhorn, 24, is originally from Alaska and took a Homeric journey on his way to 3M Arena at Mariucci.
He spent time at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, in a Kansas City-area AAA program, in the US National Team Development program and for the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the United States Hockey League (where he was named USA Hockey’s national Goalie of the Year in 2014-15) before hitting the collegiate ice in Minneapolis in the fall of 2015.
His career at the U of M was a rollercoaster, with Schierhorn being named the top goalie in the Big Ten after his freshman and sophomore seasons (both of which ended with the Gophers hoisting the conference title trophy), then settling into more of a backup role to Mat Robson by the end of his senior year.
In France, he played 29 games with good, not great, numbers (3.56 goals-against average, .896 save percentage). Schierhorn admits there was a challenging language barrier away from the rink. The team’s Finnish coach spoke perfect English and French, as did a few players, and Schierhorn took French language classes, but he still found conversing in the grocery store to be a daunting task. And he said he has not had to make any arrangements for a French girlfriend to come to America.
“The French girls are hard to talk to,” Schierhorn said, with a chuckle. “Once you get closer to Paris, they probably speak better English, but it’s a pretty small town in southwest France, and there wasn’t a lot of English being thrown around. It was hard to communicate.”
Via the internet, Schierhorn was able to catch at least the first period of a few Gophers games, which would start at 11 p.m. or later in France. And with the French league taking a trio of two-week breaks during the season, he took extended trips to Portugal, Morocco and Finland over the winter. The season wound down just as Covid-19 was starting to flare up in Italy and Spain, and Schierhorn returned to Minnesota on March 10.
Less than 24 hours later, the NHL, NBA, college sports seasons and most travel options were shut down.
“My timing could not have been more perfect to get back without any headaches,” he said.
Schierhorn had interned with Abbey Street, Clymer’s Eden Prairie-based financial services firm, in the summer of 2019, and even while riding the bus throughout France, he was preparing for the next chapter of his life.
“A few months into the season, I had already started the wheels in motion toward phasing out of the game,” he said. “I kind of figured Europe would be a one-and-done thing. I’d get the experience and I still wanted to play, but I was ready to move on and wasn’t going to be one of those guys that plays in the lower-end leagues into my late 20s.”
Back in Minnesota, like most in the business world, he is working from home, over the phone, helping with retirement planning and investments. Schierhorn lives with Casey Mittelstadt and Tyler Sheehy, two former Gophers who still play hockey professionally. He said that the surest sign that it was the right time to hang up the goalie pads is the feeling — or lack thereof — he gets when his roommates head to the rink.
“One way I know the timing is right is I’m not jealous of these guys,” he said. “They’re going out to skate, and I don’t need to do that anymore.”