MILTON, ONT. - In the unlikely event that James Reimer was going to take anything for granted entering his first training camp as an NHL starter, he’s got plenty of memory aids to avoid it.
There is a lot riding on Reimer, of course, as he has been anointed the team’s goaltender of the present and future after just 37 NHL games under his belt.
But Reimer still remembers the trauma of his first big training camp — when he showed up in Red Deer as a 15-year-old looking to begin his Western Hockey League career.
“Coming from a small town, I remember just being awestruck by how big the building was,” Reimer said. “I don’t know if I stopped one puck all weekend. I felt like I was pretty brutal.”
Reimer has also played enough games in the minors — including some at the lower levels — that he still anticipates having that nervous feeling in his gut when camp opens next week at the MasterCard Centre.
“Obviously there is pressure, but the pressure I put on myself is even more than that,” Reimer said on Tuesday prior to teeing off in the team’s charity golf tournament at Rattlesnake Point Golf Club. “I hate getting scored on. I hate losing more than anything else in the world. It drives me insane when I miss pucks. That’s a lot higher expectation than (coach Ron Wilson and general manager Brian Burke) might have on me.”
That may be true, but the expectations from both within and outside of the organization are indeed high. On Tuesday, Burke once again emphasized his philosophy of building from the net out and believes that Reimer can be a big anchor in that.
And Wilson said the way the team responded in front of Reimer during his prolonged audition last season showed that the Leafs are capable of being a playoff contender.
“When you watched our team last year, when we started getting solid goaltending from James Reimer, he had 20 wins and 10 losses,” Wilson said. “If we get that kind of goaltending, then we can make the playoffs.”
Reimer will enter the season as the clear No. 1 in front of Jonas Gustavsson, who Burke hopes has left all his medical issues behind and can make his case for being at worst a strong backup.
“I just plan to go out and fight all the other goalies for he job,” Reimer said. “It’s getting ready for camp, just like I have for the last seven years or so since I have been playing competitive hockey.
“Obviously the situation is a little different, but the emotions are the same.”