The smile that greeted Beck Warm when he went on the ice for the first time as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes was comfortingly familiar.
Starting goalie James Reimer was there to greet him, smiling broadly, just as he had about six years earlier when he met Warm for the first time at an offseason goaltending camp. Warm was a 16-year-old with concerns about his goaltending future after being passed over in the Western Hockey League draft and allowing eight goals in his one WHL game with Tri-City as a call-up that season.
Reimer was in his sixth NHL season and had played three seasons for Red Deer of the WHL. The pair were connected through the mentorship component of the NET360 goalie camp, held each August in Kelowna, British Columbia.
"Funny how it all happens," Reimer said this week, smiling at the memory. "I was fired up when I heard he got called up. I was playing that night in Detroit, but in the morning skate I was waiting for him to get on the ice because I was so excited for him."
It brought back memories of that fateful first meeting for each player and reflections on the road traveled, especially for Warm, who was promoted to the Hurricanes taxi squad March 16, 10 days after signing a two-year, entry-level contract.
It's been a whirlwind season for the undrafted 21-year-old. He signed a minor league contract with Chicago of the American Hockey League on Nov. 17 after negotiations with other NHL teams did not result in an offer.
Warm went 5-1-0 with a 2.02 goals-against average, a .944 save percentage and one shutout before being recalled by the Hurricanes with goalie Petr Mrazek (upper body) out since Jan. 30.
The call-up was exciting enough. Reimer greeting him again with a smile was priceless.
"It was such a cool moment," Warm said. "The pictures of me and him when I was 16 to the picture of us a couple days ago, it kind of hit me like, 'Whoa, that was six years ago and now we're together here.' It was such a such a cool thing to see."
The goalie camp that started the relationship was co-founded by Warm's agent, Ray Petkau of Alpha Hockey Agency, and Warm's trainer, Adam Francilia, who works privately with a dozen NHL goalies and the San Jose Sharks.
The camp is split between professional and junior-age goalies and designed as a think tank week for the position. Goalies rotate through multiple coaches with an open exchange of philosophies and approaches.
The mentorship component brings professional and junior goalies together. It includes off-ice activities and one session a week on the ice where they get together to do position-specific drills prepared and led by NHL goalies.
That interaction made an impact on Warm, who has attended multiple NET360 camps.
"I just remember it being such a cool experience finding out the NHL guys were going to be with us and we got to do drills with them and chat, and being able to talk to guys and realize you can be in that position one day," Warm said.
"My first year, when Eddie Lack was there, too, I remember we were doing a drill together and he was just kind of sitting there talking to me in between reps and he wasn't talking down to me at all. He was talking to me like an equal and I just thought that was the coolest thing ever because we were just two guys talking hockey and he was an NHL goalie and I was going into my first or second year of midget. That was a big moment for me."
Warm skated in the junior and college goalie group of the camp until last August. His junior career ended with the cancellation of the 2020 WHL season March 20 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. During the offseason he skated with the pros in a scaled-down version of the NET360 camp and worked out more regularly with Reimer, Francilia and other NHL goalies.
The preparations allowed Warm to make a seamless transition to the AHL, which many goalies say is a bigger jump than going from the AHL to the NHL.
"I always say you're the sum of your four best friends, so whoever you surround yourself with, that's who you're going to become," Warm said. "When you surround yourself with NHL players, you're going to do everything you can to be there one day. That's something I've held myself to for the last little while, just surrounding yourself with the right people."
Warm's journey is a reminder to NHL goalies like Reimer, an 11-season NHL veteran who turned 33-years-old March 15, about the impact they can have on others.
"I don't know what he took from it six years ago, but I know when I was that age your goal is to make the NHL and you're just looking for anything, every little tidbit you can get, to give you an edge," Reimer said. "And we genuinely want success for the people in our group, so when one guy has success, you are texting him or we have a group chat, and there's that feeling of family and so Beck is part of that family now. He kind of feels like a brother."