December 28, 2011
For Reimer, it was a very good year
By Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency
RALEIGH, N.C. - A year ago, James Reimer’s name had never been listed as an NHL starting goalie, not to mention associated with a line of underwear.
Such has been the rapid rise to fame of the young goaltender in the past 12 months, a journey he himself refers to as “a wild ride.”
From this time last year, James Reimer’s path from anonymity to celebrity has included his first NHL start, his first NHL win, his first NHL contract, a chance to wear the Team Canada logo on his chest at the IIHF world hockey championship and, of course, his deal with B.C-based Firstar to endorse athletic underwear.
It’s enough to make this 23-year-old’s head spin.
“For sure this has been the most eventful year of my life,” Reimer admitted on Wednesday, marvelling himself at how quickly success has come.
“Obviously in the past there have been some cool things that have happened, whether it be getting drafted into the WHL, the first game you play in the WHL or being drafted into the NHL. But nothing is really like getting your first NHL start, your first NHL season, getting to play in the worlds ... and doing all that in one calendar year.
“It’s pretty crazy to look back and think of all the things that have happened.”
Like he said, all in one calendar year.
Indeed, given all the hype and hoopla that surrounds the native of tiny Morweena, Man., it’s easy to forget just how brief his tenure on the Toronto sporting landscape has been.
As hard as it might be to believe, Sunday will mark the one-year anniversary of his first NHL start. On Jan. 1, 2011, Reimer turned aside 32 of 33 shots en route to a 5-1 victory over the host Ottawa Senators, embedding his name into the minds of rabid Leaf fans in the process.
“That seems like forever ago,” he said. “At the same time, it seems like yesterday.
“It’s crazy to think back about everything that has happened to me in such a short time.”
In less than a year, Reimer has captured the hearts and imaginations of an entire city. But is he the real deal, which, for the most part, he appears to be? Or is he one of those dreaded one-year wonders like former Habs goalie Steve Penney and ex-Bruin Mike Moffatt?
As good as Reimer has been in his brief stint with the Leafs, such questions do arise when he struggles like he did on Tuesday night in Florida, allowing three goals on seven shots in a performance some were calling the worst of his young NHL career.
Ron Wilson yanked him in favour of Jonas Gustavsson early in the second period in a game the Leafs would go on to lose 5-3 to the Panthers. At the same time, Wilson is still confident in the kid and says he’ll throw him right back between the pipes on Thursday here in Raleigh against the Carolina Hurricanes.
“It’s about playing well ... It’s just about getting him reps so he can catch up and be a big part of our success in the second half,” Wilson said, aware that Reimer might still be fighting his way back from being sidelined for six weeks with whiplash (Or a concussion, depending on who you listen to).
Either way, the one aspect of Reimer’s makeup that makes you think he’ll be a long-term staple instead of a short-term fluke is his attitude.
While he might be a soft-spoken religious kid off the ice, he is fiercely competitive on it. Instead of dwelling on bad goals he has allowed, his focus always seems to be on not giving up the next one.
For a small-town Prairie boy playing in the big city, the pressure of carrying the hopes of an entire fan base on your back might cause you to buckle. Not Reimer. Not yet anyway.
“It comes with the ground of being a goalie,” he said. “I’ve worked hard, I’ve faced adversity and I’ve faced expectations. Obviously the expectations are high but that’s something I try not to think about.
“It’s a different world (in Toronto), that’s for sure. What it comes down to for me, I view this opportunity as a gift. Obviously my faith plays a big part. I see it as a gift. So if I’m going to take credit for it, then I’m doing the wrong thing. Obviously I enjoy the moment, but it’s a blessing.
“Every day I feel I have something to prove. I hope I still have something to prove 15 years from now. You are always striving to be perfect and do the best that you can, but I don’t think that it is something that you can ever attain. So, every day, whether I’ve had a good game or bad game, I want to go out and practise and work hard. Not just work hard, but work smart. That’s what I strive to be — the best that I can, whether I’ve won 20 Vezinas in a row or haven’t won anything. That’s my role.”
Come Sunday, the anniversary of his first NHL start, Reimer is not sure how he will celebrate, if at all. But there will be time to reflect. Count on it.
“Any time a calendar year ends, you look back and see how it went,” he said. “I might take some time to enjoy what 2011 was.”
When all is said and done, 2011 will be looked at as James Reimer’s NHL coming-out party. It’s a bash he hopes will continue for years to come.
FROM ANONYMITY TO CELEBRITY
(James Reimer’s 2011 Timeline)
* Jan 1: Makes first NHL start and posts first NHL victory as he stopped 32 of 33 Ottawa shots in Toronto’s 5-1 win over the Sens at Scotiabank Place.
* Feb. 3: Records first NHL shutout by stopping all 27 Carolina shots in a 3-0 win at ACC.
* Feb. 8-March 3: Posted season-high five consecutive road wins.
* April 2: Named NHL’s rookie of the month for March after posting 9-4-1 record, one shutout, 2.87 GAA, .913 save %.
* April 11: Selected to represent Canada at the IIHF world championship in Slovakia.
* April 29-May 14: Goes 3-0-0 with a 2.04 GAA and .920 save % for Canada at worlds.
* June 8: Announcement made that he has inked a three-year, $5.4 million US deal with Leafs after going 20-10-5 in his rookie year.
* June 22: Announcement made that he will launch a line of athletic undergarment wear with Firstar, a B.C. company.
* Oct. 6: Shuts out Habs at ACC in 2011-12 season opener.
* Oct. 22: Knocked out of game in Montreal when struck in head by Canadiens’ captain Brian Gionta.
* Dec. 3: Returns to action after missing six weeks with what team calls “whiplash.” There is controversy, however, after his mother, during an interview with a newspaper columnist, called the ailment a concussion.
* Dec. 13: Beats Carolina 2-1, posting his first win in two months.