Familiar faces help new goalie MacDonald adjust quickly to Flames
Besides former NHL teammates on Calgary’s roster, veteran ’tender used to play junior with Alex Tanguay
After the first practice with his new employers, Joey MacDonald appraised his fresh digs.
And marvelled at the number of familiar faces.
Lee Stempniak and Matt Stajan from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Dennis Wideman from the Boston Bruins. Tim Jackman and Blake Comeau from the New York Islanders. Jiri Hudler from the Detroit Red Wings.
And Alex Tanguay — from their time with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, way back in the 1960s.
“We were talking about it — that’s a long time ago,” said MacDonald, chuckling. “It tells you how old we are.”
As teens, they’d carpooled back and forth to the rink. One night in particular stands out — a playoff date. Tanguay scored four times for Halifax, Vincent Lecavalier replied with four of his own for Rimouski.
“They went back and forth,” recalled MacDonald, who, 15 years later and far from baby-faced, is getting a kick out of being a teammate of Tanguay’s yet again. “Once you play quite a few years in the league, every team you go to, you know somebody. It always makes things easier when you come in and know half a dozen faces.
“When I got picked up, I looked at the (Flames’) roster . . . so it’s good. It’s almost like a homecoming.”
Well-travelled — to put it mildly — the goalie should have this drill down pat.
At 33, he’s kicked out pucks all over the place — and soon, after Monday’s waiver-wire rescue, in Calgary. The development caught him off-guard.
“I was on my way to Grand Rapids,” said MacDonald, who’ll wear No. 35 for the Flames. “I had stuff ready to pack. Got the call at 12:30. Then a three o’clock flight. It was a quick turnaround, but I was excited to come to a team like this. A great organization.
“To get an opportunity, it’s going to be huge.”
With Miikka Kiprusoff sidelined for another two weeks, with Leland Irving taking his first serious plunge into the National Hockey League, MacDonald promises to be ready.
He’s ready now, in fact.
“I could probably jump right in,” said the Pictou, N.S., native. “I’ve been going pretty hard for the last three weeks in Detroit. But you can practise all you want, it’s not the same as a game. Once you get a couple games under your belt, that’s the most important thing. Once you get one or two, then it’s just like riding a bike. You don’t lose it, (you just need) a little tweaking here and there.”
Irving, as MacDonald entertained a gathering of reporters, shuffled over a couple of stalls to get some breathing room.
His relationship with the career backup is about to begin.
“I’ve played against him in the American league and we have mutual friends, obviously, in the hockey world,” said Irving. “He seems like a great guy. I realize that Joey has a lot of experience. I’ve heard nothing but great things about him. He’s here to help the team, no matter what the situation is. We’re just trying to win.”
Because of a back injury, MacDonald hasn’t played games since March — 11 months ago. He had undergone surgery in 2006 and the latest setback, a bulging disc, was scar-tissue related.
Now he says he’s fine.
His gear, not so much.
MacDonald’s pads and gloves — red and white — are perfectly coloured, sure. But his mask features a rather large winged wheel and a tribute to Chris Osgood. That has to go.
“I’ve got a new one — it’s in the shop getting painted,” he explained. “I had one ready to go, all white. I told them to hold off on the paint till we figured out what was going to happen.”
No one’s really sure when the veteran will be on full display.
“Right now, we’re evaluating his conditioning, his game,” said coach Bob Hartley. “Obviously, I met with him (Tuesday morning). It was brief. It was very positive. I sat with Jiri (on Monday) and he told me all great things about Joey MacDonald. He’s bringing depth to our goaltending. That’s great news for us.”
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