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Remarkable Run

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
“Come July, I could still retire as a Cap,” he admits. “I haven’t picked a city out to go play in. I don’t even know what is going to happen. But if there is an opportunity, I still feel that I can play. I still have that desire to play. Maybe not the 70 games that I used to play, but I still think that I can carry a heavy workload.”

The workload is part of the equation. Kolzig doesn’t believe he would be of much use to anyone as a backup goaltender.

“For me, I play my best when I play a lot,” he declares. “That’s just my track record. Being a big guy, I need to get into a rhythm, get into a groove. In order to do that, I need to play. For me to consider being a backup wouldn’t work out. 

“I know I wouldn’t be a problem in the room. I’d obviously be very positive, very upbeat and still try to continue to try to be a leader in the room. But as far as performance-wise, I don’t think I would be able to play at the top of my game.”

Although Kolzig still believes he is capable of playing the lion’s share of games in goal for an NHL team, he realizes that his days of getting 70 starts a season have passed. I suggest that an even split of netminding duties might be the wave of the future in the NHL, given how some of those “heavy workload” goaltenders seem to have trouble getting their teams past the first couple rounds of the playoffs in recent years. I mention San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov and New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur specifically.

“There is no question,” agrees Kolzig. “The game is so much different now. There are so many scoring chances, so much parity, there’s so much pressure every night. You don’t have those easy nights like we did six, seven years ago when these expansion teams came in. Not to say that any night is easy, but you knew that your team was going to score five or six goals and you weren’t going to get tested a whole lot. But now every night any team can beat you.

“You’ve got to be ready and your team expects you to be ready. The mental strain is probably more now than it was in the past.”

I asked Kolzig to elaborate a bit on the type of NHL situation he’s seeking for 2008-09.

“First of all, I would love for it to be a contending team,” he states. “I don’t want to go to a rebuild and just play for the sake of playing. There still has to be a purpose for playing, to try to win the Cup.

“For my son [Carson, who has been diagnosed with autism], it’s got to be very, very important what kind of services there are. He is in a school now where he is just absolutely taking off. But I talked about it with my wife, and she’s been very supportive. She said, ‘You know what? It is a great school and a great program, but there are a lot of other great schools and great programs throughout the country. You’ve got to be happy, because if you’re not happy, the family is not going to be happy and it is not going to work.’ And so that’s another big part.

“And [so is] term. If it’s just a one-year contract then my family wouldn’t come for sure, and I couldn’t be away from them for a year like I was two years ago. It’s not to say I want a five-year contract. If there is a team out there that is willing to give me two, then that’s something that is manageable.

“So there are a lot of things. And I don’t even know. The one thing that I always try to be is humble. That’s sometimes a downside for me, that I think a little lower of myself than I should at times. It can be a hindrance, but for me I think it’s been a driving factor for me not to embarrass myself.

“Having said that, I don’t know what’s out there. I’m not thinking along the lines of, ‘Who wouldn’t want me?’ I don’t know what’s out there. I’ve never been a free agent. Come July 1, we’ll see what happens. There might be a team that says, ‘Hey, listen. We’ve got a young guy here, we’d like you to play 50 games and we’ve got a real good hockey team.’ Who knows?”

Regardless of where Kolzig’s career takes him from here, he has had a remarkable run. He was drafted in the first round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, but did not win his first NHL game until nearly six years later. When he was 25 years old, he had exactly two NHL wins. Now he has 301.

How did he get from there to here?

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