’s status as the marquee goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs is based in large part on the word of the guy who darned his hockey socks and stitched his name to the back of his Red Deer Rebels sweater.
The Leafs spent a fourth-round draft choice on Reimer in 2007 despite good but not great numbers with the Rebels.
What the Leafs saw was a tall, athletic kid who would never be a great goalie on a terrible team.
He was not the spectacular tender who loses 6-5 but still earns the game’s first star. That kind of goalie operates out of instinct. Reimer, a methodical, position oriented goalie needs to know where everyone is.
The guessing was if surrounded by capable players, Reimer could be a sleeper.
Leafs Western Canadian amateur scout Garth Malarchuk liked Reimer. So did Mike Palmateer, a veteran scout and a good NHL netminder with the Leafs.
Malarchuk was a Calgary cop and a part-time scout when Cliff Fletcher recruited him and took him to Toronto to work for the Leafs in 1991.
“Building a case for a player is investigative, it’s like police work,” Malarchuk said.
The cop’s job is to talk to as many witnesses as possible, decide who has credibility and who does not, reach a conclusion and act on it. Same with a scout.
But what to do with Reimer?
Malarachuk spoke with the player and his coaches. He called his billet, anyone who he thought would have an opinion. Then he reached for his trump card. Dave ‘Radar’ Horning had been the Red Deer Rebels trainer for 13 years. He had seen Dion Phaneuf
and Cam Ward come through his dressing room. Current Leaf, Colby Armstrong
, is another Red Deer alumnus.
Marlarchuk and Horning go way back.
“I told them you have to take a flyer on this kid,” Horning said. “You’ve got to be straight up. I said he was a great kid and he had the potential, the work habits to be a great NHL goaltender.”
There can be no more valuable set of eyes than those of a trainer. He watches how a player treats the person in the dressing room who appears, exponentially less important. If how we treat the people who help or work for us is a great indicator of integrity, a hockey trainer’s word is gold.
Did Malarchuk put a lot of emphasis on Horning’s endorsement?
“You need guys in the game who will give you the truth,” Malarchuk said. “I knew Radar was a straight-shooter. He made a difference.”
Reimer stayed in character when told of Horning’s impact on his career.
“That’s a good lesson learned, not the hard way I guess,” he said.
“I was taught by my parents to treat everyone with respect and to carry yourself in a professional way.
“Kudos not to me but the parents who raised me.”