Camp Competition in Goal
By Steve Mears
Islanders play-by-play broadcaster
(YARMOUTH, NOVA SCOTIA) When you're talking about having "depth," it's usually reserved for conversations about forwards, defensemen, or fishing off the coast in the Atlantic. Although it's not mentioned as frequently, having depth in the goaltender's position is just as vital as having it at any position for a contending team.
Even at his recent press conference, Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro said he could not possibly play all 82 games and no goaltender should. One position that has yet to be officially determined at Islanders training camp in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia is the role of backing up the talented netminder. Some qualifications for the job include: being an all-around positive influence, being mentally sharp even after long periods of sitting on the bench, and being able to win on any given night when you're called upon.
The Islanders have six goaltenders in camp, including DiPietro, who bring a mixture of veteran leadership, youth, and terrific puck-stopping ability. Ten-year veteran Mike Dunham has been invited to Yarmouth and looks forward to getting to work and earning the role.
"Right now, I'm just trying to get the rust off," said Dunham. "It takes a while to get your timing going after four months off. Hopefully, I can get my game to where it needs to be for the exhibition games."
With general manager Garth Snow having spent the last three seasons as a complement to DiPietro, the Islanders could once again lean toward having a veteran presence in the backup role. Dunham clearly realizes the opportunity and knows a bond between the players at hockey's most important position is vital.
"It certainly helps to have a great relationship," he said. "Garth and Rick worked well together over the last few years and hopefully now things can work out for me here on the Island. Obviously, Rick is one of the top goalies in the league and it would be great to work with him and push him to be even better."
Camp also includes netminders Wade Dubielewicz, Chris Madden, Billy Thompson and 23-year old Mike Mole, who stopped 14 of 15 shots in the Blue-White scrimmage on Sunday.
"I don't care if he's 60 or 19 as long as he wins," said head coach Ted Nolan when asked whether age is a factor in deciding his club's backup goaltender. "It's a position that will require a lot of mental toughness and the ability to stay sharp, both physically and mentally when you're possibly not playing for extended periods of time. There are definitely jobs to be won and lost at this camp and this is a great example."
As a side note, while writing this edition of "From the Radio Booth," I was reminded of one of the most underrated records in sports history. Glenn Hall, who spent the majority of his career with the Chicago Blackhawks, played an NHL-record 552 consecutive games in goal from 1955 to 1962. Not too bad for a guy who didn't wear a mask and admitted he was constantly nervous before and during games. Even with today's superb athletes and talented young netminders in the NHL, Hall's record for not missing a minute of action through over seven seasons is one which will probably never be broken.
The Islanders are hoping the start of a long streak like Hall's won't be necessary and that their team's "depth" extends into the goal crease.
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