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Curtis Joseph offering wisdom to Hurricanes prospects

Retired goaltender now working as consultant in Carolina

by Kurt Dusterberg / Correspondent

RALEIGH, N.C. -- When Curtis Joseph stepped on the ice at PNC Arena on Wednesday, he brought with him the accumulated knowledge of a 19-season NHL career.

Dressed in a coach's track suit, Joseph looked like a natural as he helped direct four goaltending prospects at Carolina Hurricanes development camp.

In reality, it's Joseph's first time in the League since he retired as a player in 2009.

Joseph, 49, finished his career with 454 wins, fourth-most all-time, and his 943 games with the St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Phoenix Coyotes and Calgary Flames are fifth. But in the seven years since he put away the pads, he has tried to forge a post-hockey identity.

Video: 1998 Round 1, Gm7: Curtis Joseph makes paddle stop

"It was tough," Joseph said. "The training stops, [being with] the guys stops, the sense of purpose stops. There's no game to play. It's a huge transition. It took a few years for sure. It's never easy to retire. When you do, it's like, 'Now what? Now who am I?'"

He focused on being a father; he and his wife have three sons who play hockey, and a daughter. 

"I've been busy making sure that my kids were raised properly," Joseph said. "After 19 years in hockey, you miss a lot of [family] things. The last eight-plus years I've put in a lot of time. I think they're sick of me."

Joseph finally felt the time was right to return to hockey. His friend Joe Nieuwendyk, a Hurricanes professional scout, put him in touch with general manager Ron Francis. With Joseph living a few hours away in Virginia Beach, Va., the decision was easy. 

As goaltending consultant, Joseph will work with Carolina's goalies in the minor leagues, junior hockey and college. He said he expects much of the wisdom he passes along will be more useful between the ears than the pads.

"All of these guys have solid techniques," Joseph said. "They've had goalie coaches, in this era, since they were 5 years old. But there are intangibles that will separate them and get them to the next level."

That will be critical. For the half-dozen Hurricanes goaltender prospects, wins will feel like validation, while some losses will be devastating. Joseph will help them with all of that.

"The mental part of goaltending is huge," he said. "How you carry yourself, how you see yourself progressing. You might have a bad practice. It's how you get over it and forget about it. As a goaltending coach you have to mature them as a person and an athlete and a professional."

Joseph's playing career straddled two goaltending eras. For years he relied on his natural talents, fending off forwards with his long reach and depending on his athleticism to make split-second adjustments on rebounds and dekes. But with the game changing late in his career, he learned his position anew. Prior to signing with the Coyotes in 2005, he trained with goaltending coaches to keep his game current.

"The equipment dictated the style that was going to be played," Joseph said. "I had to learn that fresh, and it helped me prolong my career. I had to learn how these guys played and learn it myself. I'm glad I did because now I can relate. I went to Phoenix and had a tremendous year, having that foundation along with the other skills I had."

Joseph said he expects to encounter a new breed of goalies when he makes his rounds this season. He said goaltenders today are better prepared than when he made his debut in 1989.

"They definitely have a way stronger foundation," he said. "There are hardly any five-hole goals anymore. There's a lot less open-net goals because they play so deep. And with this style, guys who have great glove hands stand out a little bit."

For all of Joseph's accomplishments, he completed his career with one box unchecked: He did not win the Stanley Cup. But having some time away from hockey has put a few details in their proper place. He knows a thing or two about what matters.

"It wasn't from a lack of effort," Joseph said. "I left no stone unturned. I would have loved to, but that wasn't in the cards for me. I had a great career. I have nothing to complain about."

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