In an era when NHL goalies expect to stop pucks well into their late 30s, former Canuck netminder Dan Cloutier is faced with the reality that he may have to bring his hockey career to a premature end.
“It’s been kind of a tough time,” says the 34 year old Cloutier. “I probably will be retiring. I would love to be playing but I have had so many injuries over the last four years the doctor and rehab people say its’ time to really let things heal and maybe move on.”
Cloutier’s best years in the NHL were as a Vancouver Canuck; he played four and half seasons here winning an impressive 109 games. In the ‘03/’04 season Cloutier set a Canuck record with a Goals Against Average of 2.27 – a record that still stands today.
Cloutier ultimately fell out of favour with Canuck fans and management after a series of injuries, the team’s lack of playoff success, and a weak and untimely goal in a 2002 playoff game against the Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately for Cloutier, the Nicklas Lidstrom goal from centre ice is what a lot of Canuck fans remember him for.
“People like to talk about that goal but you know I’m a goalie and every goalie understands that you let in those bad goals and you forget about it right after,” chuckles Cloutier.
“It’s just hard to make other people forget about it.”
After an injury plagued 2005/2006 campaign, the Canucks decided to part company with ‘Clouts’ sending him to the Los Angelses Kings for a 2nd round draft pick. Los Angeles is where, Cloutier contends, his current injury woes began.
Cloutier suffered a hip injury during his first week in a Kings’ uniform. Feeling pressure from team management, he went against his instincts and played through the injury – never fully recovering. Consequently, Cloutier put up mediocre numbers in L.A. and was demoted to the Kings’ AHL affiliate in early 2007 and was ultimately bought out of his contract.
“My biggest mistake was playing hurt for them,” he says.
Over the past year, Cloutier has had two professional hockey ‘try-outs’: one with the Detroit Red Wings and another with the Rockford Icedogs – the farm team of the Chicago Blackhawks. Invariably the injury ‘bug’ reared its ugly head.
“Things were going well with the Icedogs but the hip started to act up again,” says Cloutier.
It was then, that Cloutier realized that he was likely going to have to retire.
“I want to continue to play obviously,” says Cloutier.
“But at the same time when you have two young kids running around at home you realize that your health is a lot more important.”
Like a lot of professional athletes, Cloutier is now struggling with the fact that he may have to walk away from his life’s passion before he is ready to do so.
The Mont-Laurier QC native is not sure what he wants to do with the rest of his life, but for time being has decided to give coaching a try. Late last month Cloutier signed a one year deal with the Barrie Colts, of the Ontario Hockey League, to serve as their part-time goaltending coach.
“It’s nice that (this job) starts off part-time so that I can get a feel of it and see if it’s what I want to do for the remainder of my life,” says Cloutier.
“I still want to play; I still want to be involved in the game and I think coaching is the closest to thing to playing.”