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THE BUDDY SYSTEM

Tight friendship between Rittich and Talbot has helped Flames goaltenders find success, both on and off the ice

by TY PILSON @typilson / CalgaryFlames.com

Sitting in his stall after an up-tempo practice, Cam Talbot is asked about his creasemate David Rittich.

The two Flames goalies have a unique relationship.

How would Talbot describe it?

"Oh, it's a terrible relationship," he deadpans. "I hate the guy."

He barely gets the last syllable out before cracking a big smile and laughing.

"You know what, it's been really good," says the eight-year NHL vet. "He's one of my favourite goalie partners I've ever had in my career."

That, despite the fact that when the Flames signed Talbot back on July 1, Rittich was already wearing No. 33.

That was always Talbot's number.

Hockey players are a superstitious bunch, relying heavily on set routines and their 'norm' to feel calm and comfortable.

Goalies, one may argue, can be even more, shall we say, quirky.

Rittich wanted to keep the digits, leaving Talbot to settle on a new number. He eventually went with 39.

Not that he lets Rittich forget that, reminding him on a regular basis. 

"And he's like, 'I still need a Rolex on my wrist,' " is the reply he gets, says Talbot.

When told of Talbot's tale, Rittich laughs and holds up his naked wrist.

"Still don't have it."

 

 

The duo are both outgoing guys who have forged a relationship based on mutual respect and admiration - with a healthy dose of fun and hijinks mixed in, for good measure. 

As we said, it's a unique relationship.

"Ya, I think most of the guys we've had in here have got along, but these guys seem really close and, they're not just teammates , they are friends on top of that away from the rink," agreed the team's long-time goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet. "So, that's special to have that."

Goalies on the same team being friends is nothing new. 

Or out of the ordinary.

Despite what is often a competitive battle between them for ice time, netminders have the common bond of a shared experience few can relate to.

The only guy on your team with the same perspective is also wearing a blocker and catcher.

It's the 'goalie union,' as it's often referred to.

But what makes Rittich and Talbot different is the how close the friendship they have cultivated is, one akin to brothers - siblings who love getting a rise out of each other.

Both are laid back (off the ice), have a great sense of humour, and don't let the stress get to them.

There's no sitting in the corner by themselves quietly, both of them happy to talk on game days when many goalies prefer to draw in and prepare in their own way.

 

 

"We both just try to keep it light, which is the fun part," said Talbot. "Neither one of us are too serious come game day. We enjoy coming to the rink. Even during timeouts and between periods, we bounce ideas off each other and stuff like that. It's really refreshing to have a goalie partner that has the same kind of mindset as you."

So, they both …

"Are crazy?," quickly answers Rittich, with his own grin, before the question is finished.

So they both … have the same type of personalities?

"Ya, I mean since the first day I met Talbs we were really good together, we are kind of same person," said Rittich.

"We are the kind of guys who are having fun and not taking too much of the pressure," he continues. "Anywhere you play in the world (as a goalie), there's going to be pressure. In NHL, there's even more pressure. I think me and Talbs are the same. We (use pressure) as motivation. It's good for us, you know, the pressure and the nerves but can make a difference in your game. I'm glad I don't have it and he doesn't have it either. That's good for the team."

Two peas in a pod, so to speak.

"Ya, exactly, we share the same kind of mindset," said Talbot. "Neither one of us comes to the rink and we're super serious. We like to keep it light inside the room and out on the ice, have fun with the guys. 

"There's always that competitive edge in both of us. When the game starts, we want to go out there and put our best foot forward but when the opportunity arises and you can keep it light and joke around with the boys and have some fun, we're both up for that, too."

That attitude has helped fuel their success.

"I think both of those guys are at their best when they're loose, and nothing really seems to faze them," says Sigalet. "They can flip a switch when the game starts and the pucks drops and that helps in the room, especially at this time of the year to see them not feeling the pressure too bad. It's two unique personalities but they definitely get along well."

"The whole room believes in both guys," he adds, "and when the team sees those guys support each other like they do, I think that goes a long ways, as well."

 

INCREDIBLE SUPPORT NETWORK

 

Competitive.

Confident.

Driven.

You don't get to the NHL any other way.

While Rittich has started the majority of games for Calgary this season - 43 to Talbot's 18 - the pair remain, outside of maybe their close family and friends, each other's biggest cheerleaders.

They support each other and, just as importantly, push each other to the best they can be.

"We are both competitive guys, it's good for us," says Rittich. "We can push each other to be better, get better. 

"We always support each other and try and make the other guy better."

The Flames often talk about how close the dressing room is this season. The relationship the Rittich and Talbot have is certainly something that rubs off and helps foster that bond among the entire roster.

"You can see them in practice even, one of them makes a big save and the goalie at the other end is tapping his stick on the ice," says Siglaet. "You know, in between whistles in games, they are helping each other mentally. You need that to have success. You need two guys pushing each other. It's really good to see that.

"No matter who's in net," he explains, "the other guy is cheering for him, as much as he wants to be in there, too. Each want the other to have success. That's big to have on a team."

 

 

Of course, as mentioned above, that relationship is built upon a foundation of fun and camaraderie.

The chirps, the ongoing jokes, the playful teasing - it doesn't end between the pair.

Unfortunately, neither wanted to elaborate on any specifics when it comes to the hijinx.

"None that I can really talk about on record," said Talbot, flashing a broad grin. "Let's just leave it at that.

"He's a fun guy to be around and the kind of stuff that he says and does when you guys aren't around, when he's just around the boys, can be comical - it's fun to be around."

"I'm not very sure if we can put that to media," echoes Rittich, unable to contain a chuckle of his own. "It's lot of jokes, it's every day. We have new things every day. So, it's great."

What they would both admit is that's non-stop.

"Always," says Talbot. "Always. You know, light banter back and forth but the good thing is neither one of takes it seriously. We can continue to do that. Some guys could take it to heart or something like that and that wouldn't be very fun exchange. But we know that the other one is just joking around and we give it to each other back-and-forth. That's fun, too."

 

 

Of course, not everything is frivolity.

While Sigalet is the one providing a lot of the guidance and leadership for the duo - "it's a lot like two more kids sometimes" - Talbot's lengthier NHL resume does mean he's been invaluable to Rittich as a mentor.

"I guess I've been around a bit longer than him, so if there is anything he ever wants to bounce off me, I'm here and he knows that," says Talbot. 

"It's huge for me, for sure," says Rittich. "I'm still learning. Got a lot to learn. Right now, for me, it's huge to have a guy who has the experience and can help me out when I have some issues."

Because, at the end of the day, it's all about winning - and helping a friend, in the process.

"We like to battle it out and have some fun together," says Talbot. "It's nice to have a partner that you want to go have that beer with or have that dinner with."

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