Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 13
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
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HERITAGE MAKER: Jeff Halpern of the Montreal Canadiens, right, heads up the ice last month at the Heritage Classic played outdoors at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alberta. Former Princeton University star Halpern has scored 25 points this season in helping the Canadiens climb to sixth in the Eastern Conference standings. Halpern, a 1999 Princeton alum who was recently named as one of ECAC Hockey Top 50 Players, now has 341 points in his 11-year NHL career.

PU Alum Halpern Still Going Strong in NHL; Helping Canadiens in Push for Playoff Spot

Ed Benkin

Jeff Halpern received a comprehensive on-ice education during his time with the Princeton University men’s hockey team in the late 1990s.

“I got a ton of opportunity to play there and learned every part of the game,” said Halpern a 1999 Princeton alum who had 142 points on 60 goals and 82 assists in four seasons with the Tigers and is the third all-time leading scorer in program history.

“Just getting that opportunity to learn in those roles was a tremendous thing for me to go through in college.”

Under the tutelage of then-Tiger head coach Don Cahoon, star forward Halpern got a special seminar in the mental aspects of the game.

“It was the way he approached the competitiveness of the game,” said Halpern, a 5’11, 198-pound native of Potomac, Md.

“Most of the drills had competitive battles. He encouraged confrontations in practice and instilled that personality in the team.”

The lessons that Halpern learned at Princeton proved to be a springboard for a productive NHL career. He is currently in his eleventh season in the league and his first with the Montreal Canadiens.

Halpern returns to the Garden State this Saturday as the Habs continue their drive to the playoffs, playing the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center in Newark.

For Halpern, playing for the storied Montreal franchise has been a privilege. “Montreal is a great place to play,” said Halpern, 34, who has tallied 25 points on 11 goals and 14 assists in 70 games in helping the Canadiens rise to sixth in the Eastern Conference standings with the top eight qualifying.

“It’s always great to play in the NHL, but to play for an organization that means so much to the community. With the history involved, every game seems like an event. It’s been a lot of fun to play in.”

Halpern has been having fun in the NHL since he started his career with the Washington Capitals in the 1999-2000 season after a short stint in the AHL.

“Washington was great,” said Halpern. “It was great learning from the players that I learned from. I learned so much those first few years about how to approach the game and it’s stuck with me throughout my entire career.”

Halpern was a free agent in the summer of 2006 and signed a four-year deal with the Dallas Stars. In February of 2008, Halpern was traded to Tampa Bay.

The Lightning sent Halpern to Los Angeles at the end of last season, but the Princeton grad was looking for a new team during the summer.

“This was probably the hardest summer for me because there was so much uncertainty,” maintained Halpern.

“I was lucky enough Montreal came in the end. I was able to fit in a role right away with them. It was a really easy team to jump into.”

As Halpern and the Canadiens continued their playoff push last month, they had the chance to play at the Heritage Classic in Calgary. Although the Canadiens fell 4-0 to the Flames in the outdoor game, Halpern said it was a memorable experience despite dealing with less than ideal playing conditions.

“I enjoyed it,” said Halpern. “It was definitely a different game and a unique game. The ice was so bad, but it was a weird feeling having a game like that.”

Recently, Halpern received a unique honor as he was named as one of the Top 50 players in ECAC Hockey history as part of the league’s celebration of its 50th season.

“I was surprised,” said Halpern, reflecting being chosen for the Top 50 list. “That was a tremendous honor for me. When I played in the ECAC, I thought the players were great. But to go back and see the history of the ECAC and see some of the names made it a very humbling experience.”

The Tigers’ run to their first-ever ECACH title in Halpern’s junior year still stands as one of the great experiences of his hockey career. After disposing of Brown in an opening round series, Halpern and the Tigers picked up wins over Cornell, Yale, and Clarkson to capture the crown.

“We thought we had a great team,” recalled Halpern. “We stumbled a little bit down the stretch, but it was a great group of guys that always cared about hockey. Everyone brought something different to the table. There was a certain swagger and toughness to that team.”

Due to Halpern’s positive experience at Princeton, he has kept his eye on the Tigers as he spends his winters traveling through North America.

“It’s nice to see them doing well year in and year out,” said Halpern. “I think the guys have built a foundation there. It gives everyone a lot of pride to have played there. It’s great to see the players that have come from there and to see them doing a great job.”

As Halpern looks forward to taking a shot at the Stanley Cup later this spring, he will likely skate against more Princeton alumni along the way. Former Tigers such as Darroll Powe of the Philadelphia Flyers, George Parros of the Anaheim Ducks, and Kevin Westgarth of the Los Angeles Kings are among the other former Tigers who have followed in Halpern’s footsteps.

“I think it’s great,” said Halpern, who has piled up 341 points on 142 goals and 199 assists in his NHL career.

“It’s a tremendous credit to what Guy (Gadowsky) has done. It’s nice to see some other Princeton people out there.”

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