He would play two more seasons of junior hockey with the Detroit Jr. Red Wings in 1992-93 and 1993-94 before turning professional, first with the Birmingham Bulls of the ECHL, but after just 11 games, he was promoted to the Binghamton Rangers of the AHL.
He was back with Binghamton for the majority of the 1995-96 season, but also suited up for the Charlotte Checkers of the ECHL for a half a dozen contests that same season.
Cairns made his NHL debut on October 8, 1996, playing a total of 40 games, scoring a single assist and 147 penalty minutes. During the season he would play 10 games in Binghamton, but returned to New York for the final four months of the season as well as appearing in three Rangers playoff games.
The 1997-98 season was a carbon copy for Cairns, as he played 39 games with 3 assists and 92 penalty minutes for New York as well as spending 7 games with their newly relocated affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL.
Early into the 1998-99 season, Cairns was waived by the Rangers, having played just 11 games of the Hartford Wolf Pack season. He was subsequently claimed by the nearby New York Islanders, who assigned him to their AHL affiliate, the Lowell Lock Monsters, where he would spend the majority of his season, but did play nine late season March games with the Islanders, scoring 3 assists.
Cairns set a career high in penalty minutes during the 1999-00 season with 196 but also scored the first goal of his career on this date in 2000 against Chris Osgood of the Detroit Red Wings at 1:25 of the second period, with an assist from Dave Schatchard to end he longest goal scoring drought from the start of a career in NHL history at 134 games.
With just three games remaining in the season Cairns would score his second goal of his career to finish the season with 2 goals and a career best 9 points. He also suited up for the Providence Bruins of the AHL for 4 games that season, where he also scored a goal.
He would play four more seasons for the Islanders, scoring 2, 2, 1 and 2 goals.
With the NHL players locked out during the 2004-05 season, Cairns played for the London Racers in England where his was involved in an incident with fellow NHL refugee, Wade Belak which ended with Cairns punching a referee and being suspended for the remainder of the season.
For the 2005-06 season, Cairns signed with the Florida Panthers where he played 23 games before being acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins to strengthen their defense and provide some protection for star Sidney Crosby. Cairns began his time in Pittsburgh in unexpected fashion, scoring a goal against his former club, the Islanders in his first game with the Penguins.
It would prove to be his last NHL goal, however, as after finishing the season with 27 games with the Penguins, Cairns would play 2 games with the Wilkes-Barre Penguins of the AHL and a lone game with Pittsburgh in the NHL before being forced to retire due to post-concussion issues.
His final NHL totals were 457 games, 10 goals and 42 points and 1,182 penalty minutes.
Today's featured jersey is a 1999-00 New York Islanders Eric Cairns jersey as worn when he scored his first NHL goal after beginning his season with an NHL record 134 game long scoreless streak. Following on the heels of the disastrous Fisherman jerseys of 1995-96 to 1997-98, the Islanders returned to an updated version of their classic jersey from their Stanley Cup dynasty.
A darker shade of blue than the original and now with three color numbers, this jersey was a welcome relief for Islander fans and featured a patch on the right shoulder with four stripes symbolizing the franchise's four Stanley Cup championships. This jersey remained in use through the 2006-07 season until being replaced by a similar Reebok Edge version.
Today's jersey features the NHL 2000 patch worn by all teams during the 1999-00 season in recognition of the upcoming Millennium, with each team wearing a patch in a team color, which made for many variations of the patch, particularly the multiple shades of blue.
Today's video section begins with an interview with Cairns about his playing in England during the locked out season.
Next is the notorious Cairns incident where he got himself suspended for the remainder of the 2004-05 season in England.