Raycroft all smiles

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

In his next incarnation as a National Hockey League goaltender, Andrew Raycroft wants to come back as a Cat.

As in Felix (The Cat) Potvin, the Maple Leafs goaltender whom Raycroft idolized as a young teen in Belleville. Potvin helped him in his rookie season in Boston and whose role of No. 1 with the Leafs became Raycroft's yesterday.

BIG CAT

"The Cat was big when I was watching as a 12 and 13 -year-old along with Doug Gilmour and the team going to the conference final," Raycroft said yesterday when he was introduced at the Air Canada Centre. "Felix was an unbelievable guy. Aside from watching on him TV, he helped me a lot."

Ironically, Potvin is trying to get back in the NHL at age 35 after two years of inactivity and had eyed the situation in Toronto with Ed Belfour leaving and no clear No. 1 until the Raycroft trade.

Potvin partnered with Raycroft in his Calder Trophy season of 2003-04. But Raycroft fell on hard times in Boston and was dealt here during Saturday's NHL draft in Vancouver for net prospect Tuukka Rask.

The 26-year-old Raycroft spent much of yesterday's media briefing assuring people that one bad year should not tarnish his entire reputation. He was an Ontario Hockey League standout in Sudbury and Kingston, did well for Boston's farm team in Providence and won 29 games for the Bruins in his rookie year.

"It was one of those years, not playing as well as I wanted to, having two or three injuries and then the team went through a lot. But you can't go through a whole career and not have a tough year.

"It's funny. There were six, seven, eight, nine of us who thought we'd be in Boston for a long time. Now, none of us are. It was a good time (to leave)."

Raycroft was pleased to find out that Leafs goaltending consultant Steve McKichan had worked with Raycroft's previous tutor, John Elkin of Mississauga.

"Neither one of them will be trying to re-invent the wheel with me," he said.

A student of the NHL's Original Six, Raycroft spent part of his time during yesterday's club medical and press conference wandering around the ACC looking at plaques, banners and honoured numbers. He was ecstatic that his No. 1 jersey with Boston, Providence and Tappara, Finland, was unclaimed.

"I thought it would be retired," he said.

A phone call awoke Raycroft at 3:30 a.m. Sunday in Rome, Italy, with news of the trade.

"It's all just sinking in right now," he said. "I feel I'm ready to bounce back next year."


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