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Sophomore year

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – After securing the backup role out of training camp last year, Mike Condon will likely find himself in a similar battle this time around, too.

Admittedly, the Canadiens’ signing of Al Montoya on July 1st didn’t catch him by surprise. Given the injury woes the club dealt with during the 2015-16 campaign, adding depth and experience at any position – including between the pipes – was to be expected.

In Montoya, general manager Marc Bergevin added a 31-year-old old goaltender with 136 NHL appearances to his credit, including 110 career starts, with four different teams. Condon, meanwhile, is coming off his first full NHL season, one in which he was thrust into being the Canadiens’ full-time starter when Carey Price suffered a season-ending knee injury last November.

The 26-year-old Needham, MA native could go head-to-head with Montoya at training camp for the right to back up the Vezina Trophy winner next year. Fighting for a job isn’t a foreign concept to Condon, though. He’s been doing it for years.

“Whether it was my competition in college with Sean Bonar, being in the ECHL competing with Eric Hartzell, competing with Joey MacDonald and Robert Mayer in Hamilton, or Dustin [Tokarski] and Ben Scrivens in Montreal, I’m used to it. There’s always going to be somebody. No one is ever going to pat you on the back and say – ‘Hey, here’s the job. It’s yours.’ You have to earn it,” said Condon, who compiled a 21-25-3 record, a 2.71 goals-against average, and a .903 save percentage in 55 outings last season.

When you find yourself in a position like that again and again, you essentially learn to embrace all that comes with it. That’s exactly what Condon has done at every stage of his career so far, and it’s the same approach he plans on sticking to when training camp opens five weeks from now on the South Shore.

“I was never “the guy” ever before. There was always a question mark coming into the year. There was always competition. The one thing I can take from it is that it was all positive,” said Condon, who is looking forward to meeting up with his goaltending counterparts in September. “I have so much to learn from every single goalie. I try to make the best of every situation, and competition brings out the best in everybody. It’s always going to be there.”

Back in his summer home of Sandwich, MA – located on Cape Cod some 60 miles southeast of Boston – Condon has been working with renowned trainer and former MMA fighter Scott Rehm at Pro-Elite Training Center & Fitness in preparation for the 2016-17 season.

“A lot of people think I’m a mixed martial artist where I’m doing roundhouse kicks and learning technique, but it’s not really about that,” said Condon, who is currently training six days per week, and even doing two-a-day workouts these days, too. “With Scott, I’m doing fight conditioning, sparring, hitting bags. You’re getting your heart rate up to like 150 to 170 and trying to operate at a level that would generally be uncomfortable to people. I’m basically learning to control my heart rate with my breathing. Goalies are out there on the ice all the time, so they have to be able to operate under circumstances like that the whole game, especially in penalty killing situations.”

Condon’s also been regularly making the 80-mile drive north to Woburn, MA which is home to The PAD, an athletic development center where he trains with his long-time goaltending coach Brian Daccord at Stop It Goaltending, while also taking advantage of some of the other unique services the facility has to offer.

One of those services is sports vision training, something Condon turned to on the advice of Canadiens goaltending coach Stephane Waite to help him improve his puck tracking ability.

“I’d say my vision and my puck tracking are some of the biggest things that I wanted to improve in the offseason. I went to an eye doctor in Boston and got my eyes checked by a sports vision specialist. We’ve been focusing on eye convergence, so as the puck comes closer and closer to you, how well do your eyes come together to track it. I’ve been seeing a lot of great results from it so far,” explained Condon, referencing the work he’s been putting in at Eye on Performance. “It’s all about trying to add a new weapon to your toolbox every year on top of everything you already do in terms of strength training and cardio.”

When the Princeton University grad wasn’t sweating it out in the gym over the last few months, he took some time out to work as an instructor for recreational goaltenders at a pair of fantasy camps in Chicago and Anaheim, and did his best to give back to youngsters both locally in Massachusetts and out of state.

A photo posted by Mike Condon (@condibear) on

A photo posted by Mike Condon (@condibear) on

After returning from the World Hockey Championsips in Russia, Condon paid the students of Bennett-Hemenway Elementary School in Natick, MA a visit for a reading session in June – and, as per his Instagram post to mark the occasion – he “tried to convert as many Bruins fans as possible” to switch their hockey allegiance to the Canadiens.

In late July, Condon and fellow NHLers Eric Boulton and Thomas Greiss made their way to the world's largest military installation at Fort Bragg in North Carolina in support of the United Heroes League, an organization that strives to keep military kids across the United States healthy and active through sports, while providing them with free equipment, camps, tickets, and financial grants along the way.

“Getting out in the community and talking with kids is a part of my job that I really enjoy, especially when you see the smiles on their faces. At Fort Bragg, they had a little hockey camp for the kids. It was great to meet them,” said Condon, who was also given the opportunity to train with the 3rd Special Forces Group while on site, and witness the 82nd Airborne Division complete a few drops as well. “It’s just good perspective to see what those families go through, how they still manage to maintain a normal life while putting their lives in jeopardy. I learned so much from them.”

Spending time with kids like that over the years will undoubtedly serve Condon well in his brand new responsibilities as an uncle. On July 19th, Condon’s older brother Zach and his wife, Kristen, welcomed their first child, Quinn Michael Condon, in Panama City, FL. The couple actually chose the middle name, Michael, in honor of the Canadiens’ netminder.

Condon plans on returning to Montreal sometime next week to begin settling in long before things get going for real on September 22nd in Brossard. In the meantime, he'll skate with some of the Canadiens players and prospects already training at the Bell Sports Complex, while also hitting the ice with St. John’s IceCaps video coach and assistant goalie coach Marco Marciano.

“Coming back to Montreal early is a good way in your mind to click off that summer’s over and it’s time to go to work again. You get yourself a good dose of NHL shots, so when camp comes around, you’re already in stride and adjusted to the culture,” concluded Condon. “On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say my level of excitement is about an 11. The body feels really good right now.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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