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Former goalie glad to see NHL coming to hometown

by Brian Compton

"It's a beautiful, beautiful community. Hopefully the weather's nice. I think it's great that Kraft's doing it and that the NHL's doing it."
-- Former NHL goalie and Terrace, B.C., native Wade Flaherty

Former NHL goaltender Wade Flaherty grew up in the small town of Terrace, B.C., meaning he had to do a lot of traveling if he wanted to make a name for himself and show that he had the tools to play in the National Hockey League.

Truth be told, he had to find NHL scouts. They weren't going to find him -- not when his home was roughly a 15-hour drive from a big city like Vancouver.

"Growing up there, Dad would always build us an ice rink in the backyard.," Flaherty said. "We were kind of like the home rink in the neighborhood. Everyone would come over and we had a pretty-good sized backyard. Right after school, we'd get our skates out. In the wintertime, it would get dark out by 5 o'clock. We had the big floodlights, so we had one end lit up. I was always stuck being a goalie since I had two older brothers."

Being a goalie may have been a nuisance then, but it certainly worked out for Flaherty, who ended up appearing in 120 NHL games over a 19-year career that saw stops with the San Jose Sharks, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators.

This Monday, the NHL will come to Flaherty's hometown, as Terrace is Kraft Hockeyville 2009. It marks the beginning of the preseason as the Vancouver Canucks face the Isles. Terrace was awarded the event in April after receiving close to 2 million votes. Flaherty was one of those 2 million voters.

"I think it's awesome," Flaherty told "I paid attention when it was going on and I was keeping track of it. I even wrote a letter. I know they're really, really excited about it. It's just the talk of the town. When I grew up there, hockey was just a huge part of it." 

It still is, although Canucks' games are much more accessible in Terrace today than they were when Flaherty was growing up. It wasn't often that he was able to see Vancouver on "Hockey Night In Canada" -- but even when the Canucks weren't on, Flaherty was still glued to the television.

"Being young, that's all it was," the 41-year-old said. "The Toronto Maple Leafs were on a lot, so I'd watch them. It was a big treat when the Canucks would come on. Back then, they didn't do doubleheaders. So I was a huge Toronto fan. I'd watch Mike Palmateer and the style he'd play. He was my favorite as far as goaltending."

With his parents in his corner, Flaherty did everything he could to follow in Palmateer's footsteps. He spent five seasons in the Western Hockey League before turning pro in 1989 with the Greensboro Monarchs in the ECHL. It wasn't until the 1991-92 season when he made his NHL debut with San Jose, but all the hard work and sacrifices finally paid off.

"I don't know if it was something in the water, but we had a lot of talent coming out at the same time," said Flaherty, who was chosen in the ninth round by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1988 Entry Draft. "We had very active parents like they still do up there. Now that I'm a parent, you sit back and think of the cost that it must have been to our parents. Sometimes we'd fly. We'd go down to Vancouver just to get the exposure. There's just a huge cost factor to the families, but that's what it's all about -- getting your kids the exposure and getting them involved in the game of hockey."

Fortunately, Kraft and the NHL have devised a way for Vancouver to come to Terrace this time around. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those who are unable to make the long trip down to watch the Canucks at G.M. Place.

"You're looking at a pretty big expense," Flaherty said of a trip from Terrace to Vancouver. "A lot of people don't get the opportunity to get down and see the Canucks. To bring a game up north, I think it's huge. I think (Kraft Hockeyville) is a great idea. I'm sure the players will enjoy it. They get to see different parts of the world."

Now a developmental goalie coach for the Chicago Blackhawks, Flaherty will be unable to attend this weekend's festivities due to the start of training camp. But that doesn't mean the people of Terrace won't be seeing him around.

"I moved to Vancouver when I was about 27, but I go back there every year," Flaherty said. "My dad's still there, and I still have one brother who lives up there. I probably go up three times a year. My wife's originally from there. My family's a big fishing family, and Terrace has some of the best fishing in the world. We try to get up there as much as possible.

"It's a beautiful, beautiful community," he added. "Hopefully the weather's nice. I think it's great that Kraft's doing it and that the NHL's doing it."

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