BROSSARD, Quebec -- Jonathan Bernier stepped on the ice at the Montreal Canadiens' practice facility Tuesday wearing enemy colors, and he couldn't have been happier.
Bernier was one of four NHL goaltenders taking part in the CCM/Reebok Goalie Summit, a gathering that allows them to try on their new pads and shoot some promotional material for the company that gears them up to face NHL shooters.
For Bernier, it was the first time he pulled on the famed blue and white of his new team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he was smiling from ear to ear at the sight of himself.
"It's my first time wearing this jersey," he told NHL.com before heading off for a photo shoot. "It looks pretty good."
Jonathan Bernier is ready for Toronto Maple Leafs training camp, where for the first time in years he will be in a legitimate battle for NHL playing time. (Photo: Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI)
In a few weeks, Bernier will be wearing that jersey on a far more regular basis at Maple Leafs training camp, and for the first time in years he will be in a legitimate battle for playing time.
Bernier has spent his career in the shadow of Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. The 25-year-old finally got his chance to compete for a starting job when the Maple Leafs acquired him in June in a trade for goaltender Ben Scrivens, forward Matt Frattin and a second-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.
The one hitch was the Maple Leafs already have a pretty good goalie, James Reimer, who was eighth in the NHL last season with a .924 save percentage and had a 19-8-5 record with a 2.46 goals-against average.
Regardless of that apparent obstacle standing between Bernier and the uncontested No. 1 goalie position he has waited so patiently for, the Quebec native remains excited about the opportunity to attend camp to compete for an opportunity to play.
"I'm used to it," Bernier said. "I'm sure they made the trade because they thought we could have a pretty good battle between me and Reimer, and that's what I'm looking for, to get a chance to prove what I can do and get some playing time and hopefully fit well on my new team."
Last offseason Bernier was just as excited for training camp, knowing Quick had undergone surgery and he would get a chance to carry the load for the Kings through the early going. But because of the NHL lockout, that opportunity never arrived.
"I was planning to play a lot more before Christmas; it didn't happen," Bernier said. "But I had a pretty good season (9-3-1, 1.88, .922) so I'm pretty confident going to camp, and that's what I needed. It's a fresh start for me, so I'm very excited."
Another goalie attending the CCM/Reebok Goalie Summit is in a similar situation to Bernier in that he is heading to camp looking to compete for the No. 1 job, but the context couldn't be more different.
Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said training camp can't come soon enough after a long summer stewing over his team's four-game loss to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final and his lack of playing time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
GAA: 3.52 | SVP: 0.883
"I'm looking forward to go back and start the season," Fleury told NHL.com. "There's a bit of a sour taste in your mouth for a long time after the playoffs. I'm just looking forward to going down there and playing some games."
Fleury said he changed a bit of his on-ice training routine this offseason, but doesn't see this camp being much different from any he's attended.
"I don't think so," he said. "This year's camp will be a good opportunity to get myself in game shape and get my timing back."
The other two goalies to attend the CCM/Reebok Goalie Summit were coming from the opposite ends of the NHL spectrum: Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Colorado Avalanche and Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Giguere said he is excited about the idea of playing for coach Patrick Roy, his childhood idol, and getting to work again with his goalie coach from the Anaheim Ducks, Francois Allaire. Giguere said working with Allaire would be a perfect way to bookend his career, and said he believes Allaire can help young starter Semyon Varlamov improve.
"I'm very excited to work with Francois again," Giguere told NHL.com. "He's done a lot of things for my career, so for me to be able to possibly finish my career working with him, I couldn't be happier. I think it's going to help [Varlamov] as well. We both had a difficult season last year, and as a team we weren't good enough, everybody included. I think goaltending should not be an issue on our team. We'll show up ready. We've already worked together this summer, all three of us, so that should be very exciting."
Having someone behind the bench who knows a thing or two about goaltending may be a bit awkward at times, but Giguere said he does not anticipate Roy getting too involved over the course of the season.
"Every bad goal, I'll be like, 'Hopefully he gave up one of those too,'" Giguere said with a laugh. "But he's got 23 guys to worry about. I imagine he's not going to have that much interaction with the goalies; it's going to be between [Varlamov] and I and the goalie coach.
"This is going to be our little team within the team, and I think if he has any interaction it will be more with Francois than with us. On the other hand, if he has advice, you'd be silly not to listen. He's one of the best goalies, or arguably the best goalie to ever play the game, so when he talks you have to listen."
While Giguere and the Avalanche are excited about a renewal, Crawford's Blackhawks will be looking for continuity. But before he can worry too much about that, he has an important date ahead on his calendar.
GAA: 1.84 | SVP: 0.932
On Sept. 2, the Stanley Cup will arrive so he can share it with the residents of his hometown of Chateauguay, Quebec, a community across the Saint Lawrence River from Montreal.
"It means a lot," Crawford told NHL.com. "I grew up there and it's a big hockey town, everyone's excited about it. With all the support I got from my friends, family and everyone from Chateauguay and the surrounding towns it'll be very special to go back and be able to bring the Cup and let all the kids and everyone from minor hockey take a look and take pictures and just enjoy the day."
Crawford will have a major adjustment to make this season. The Blackhawks' longtime goaltending coach Stephane Waite left the team to sign a contract with the Canadiens.
"It's definitely tough losing Steph; we worked together for a long time," Crawford said. "It's tough to see him go, but that's hockey. It happens quite a bit in this business."
The change in coaches from Waite to Steve Weeks will be another adjustment for Crawford after a short summer due to a long playoff run and celebration. He said he knows the Blackhawks will be targets this season, but he's looking forward to the adventure beginning.
"Going into next year the job stays the same," he said. "We might have a bit of a tougher time coming off [being] Stanley Cup champions. I think teams gun for you a little bit more every night.
"But it will be a good challenge for our team."