Reimer a kid from nowhere

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:34 PM ET

The unassuming goalie from rural Manitoba checked into his luxury Phoenix hotel room, plopped himself down on the oversized bed and tried to make sense of the last 12 days of his life.

That’s how long it’s taken James Reimer, hometown Morweena, Man., a hiccup of a community north of Arborg, to go from being virtually anonymous to becoming one of the most talked-about athletes in Toronto.

Just another goalie with the Leafs’ minor-league team one day, one of the hottest stoppers in the NHL the next, it seems.

“It’s a tad different,” Reimer told the Sun via cell phone from Phoenix, where Thursday night he started his fourth straight road game for the Leafs. “They treat you well up here. They put you up in nice places and feed you a lot of food. You get a king-size bed to yourself. There’s a reason why they call it the best league in the world.”

How long it lasts, who knows?

This is a Cinderella story, without the finite timeline.

Reimer has no idea when his clock is going to strike midnight.

“I didn’t even know if I was coming to Phoenix,” he said. “But I packed my stuff, got on the bus and walked past management, and they didn’t tell me to get off the bus. So I went back to my seat and sat down.”

That’s how it’s been for Reimer after road victories in Atlanta, Los Angeles and San Jose. Before each game, he tells himself to just enjoy it, because it’s probably going to be his last.

Then he gets the call again. Thursday night, he got it ahead of veteran J. S. Giguere, just back from injury.

With a 4-1 record, 1.92 goals-against-average and .947 save percentage going into last night, he’s become the Morweena Migraine for the Leafs, who now aren’t sure what they’ll do, with both Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson on one-way contracts.

GM Brian Burke calls Reimer a calming influence on the team, while head coach Ron Wilson says he’s left the 22-year-old in goal so as not to mess up the Leafs’ “karma.”

Companies are calling his agent, offering endorsement deals. Fans, bloggers, media — everyone wants access.

Back home, Reimer’s parents, aunts and uncles have scrambled to get the NHL Centre Ice package for their satellite dishes so they can watch their boy make history.

“Houses fill up,” his mom, Marlene, said. “Everybody crowds in. Everybody wants to be together and enjoy the experience.”

It’s to the point where she can’t even go to nearby Arborg without being stopped by somebody who wants to talk about her son.

“Everybody,” she said. “It’s just incredible. People I have no idea who they are, they all stop me on the street and they’ll talk to me as if they’ve known me forever ... I’ll look at them and I think, ‘I’ve never seen you before.’ It’s kind of a weird feeling.”

Seeing your son on a hockey magic carpet ride has its share of stress, too.

“It’s just this pull of emotions,” Marlene said. “Of excitement, and then just hoping that everything will go good for him.”

Marlene and her husband, Harold, took time out from their family business — they move buildings — to attend their son’s first two starts: in Ottawa, New Year’s Day, and at home to Boston, two days later.

“That’s kind of where it really hit us,” Marlene said. “In Ottawa we were all kind of, ‘This can’t be happening.’ We’ve watched him in so many different arenas, and because it wasn’t his home arena, it felt a little more surreal.”

That’s a word Reimer is using these days, too.

The glove save on Boston’s Patrice Bergeron on a two-on-one, the 21-shot, second-period barrage he faced in San Jose, the flashing lights of the pre-game show in Los Angeles, the post-game media scrums, seeming to grow with each sparkling performance — it’s all a bit of a blur.

“I honestly didn’t have too many expectations coming in,” Reimer said. “I knew anything could happen. It’s the best league in the world.”

He only has to look around his hotel room to see that.


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