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Humble Beginnings

by Paul Hendrick / Toronto Maple Leafs


James Reimer
celebrated his 27th birthday on Sunday in Edmonton. It's been challenging to find reasons to celebrate this season for the Leafs but Reimer has never lost perspective of his place in the big picture.

It's a long way from his home - the tiny hamlet of Morweena, Manitoba - to the bright lights of Toronto. Morweena is situated two hours north of Winnipeg, population 150, with the largest nearby community being Arborg and its 1021 inhabitants.

The path to the NHL began then when Reimer was introduced to organized hockey for the first time at age 12.

"There wasn't a goalie on our team in town. Some of the kids had seen me play on the outdoor rink, they needed a goalie and since there was a vacancy I got a chance. I didn't really have a tryout, there was simply an open spot and I didn't hesitate to jump in there and take it."

The affable Reimer has always managed a smile, accommodated the media and signed autographs for fans, regardless of the peaks and valleys that go with playing the sport in Toronto. But beyond his friendly exterior is a fiercely competitive nature that has enabled him to battle through two ankle sprains and play a key role in the organization for 9 years.

Simply put, Reimer loves being a goaltender.

"There's no better position to play in when you can make a big save at the end of a game or at any point really and give your team a chance to win. I think that's the greatest feeling in sports."

Reimer added, "You've got to like the position, being the last line of defence, to be a goalie, you have to be a little bit weird because not everyone wakes up with the desire to be hit by a puck. "

Reimer continues to battle for playing time with just 28 appearances this season, his lowest totals since joining the club in December 2010.

Adversity is a way of life that Reimer thrives on, going back to his initial attempt at playing junior in the Western Hockey League.

"I tried to make Red Deer when I was 16 and I was one of the last cuts, which was pretty disheartening, but I came back as a 17 year old and made the Rebels," said Reimer. "I got to play in Red Deer for three years with players like Brandon Sutter and Martin Hanzal and develop my confidence from there."

The goalie from the little town is renowned for his big heart. It's that attitude and his faith that continues to motivate Reimer as the Leafs navigate through a difficult season.

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