-- Instead of starting a family vacation to Italy, Marty Turco
took a nine-hour flight from Austria to Toronto and then chartered with the Boston Bruins
to their home city after a victory over the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.
His journey continued Wednesday at the Bruins' aged Ristuccia Arena practice facility, where he was finally allowed to take the ice with the defending Stanley Cup champions after he cleared waivers.
Although not many people would swap the chance to take in the sights of one of the world's most beautiful countries, and partake in some of Earth's greatest food, to play goal at a practice in a Bay State suburb, Turco was overjoyed to make that trade.
"I don't think I've really come to terms or grips with it," the three-time All-Star said about joining the Bruins. "Last year, being a Blackhawk, it was a special feeling. They were also defending champs, Original Six with some rich history. Same goes for this club. The difference is, they had a lot of change in Chicago; this team's intact from last year. That sets them apart, which you can just tell from the way they play and act and talk. It's their togetherness. And you can feel that when you walk into the locker room, instantly. This team is competitive, they're together and they're in it to win as a whole. They've faced adversity; they're going through some at the moment.
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"Like I said, it's special for me; you couldn't pick a better team to come to, although it wasn't any wishful thinking on my part. Any team would be great. The NHL's a special place. But even that much sweeter to be a Bruin."
Turco, 36, signed a one-year deal with Boston as a free agent Monday after the club learned that netminder Tuukka Rask
would be out at least 4-6 weeks with an abdominal/groin injury. Turco will not be eligible to play for Boston in the playoffs because he signed after the NHL trade deadline -- a rule that had already resigned Turco to the fact he'd be taking that Italian journey rather than resurrecting his NHL career.
"Not to bore you with the details, but when the deadline came and went and I was playing Austria, I assumed not only my playoff status was done, but I assumed that I was over with, period," he said. "I was playing for another team in the middle of the playoffs, and that's where my heart and my head were at. Unfortunately, we lost over there. But on the bright side for me, personally, it gave me an opportunity for this to happen. It is crazy how things work out. But I'm kind of the guy that looks forward, not behind, and as appreciative as I am, in my eyes the work's just beginning."
After playing for Dallas for nine seasons, Turco went to Chicago last season. He struggled with a 3.02 goals-against average and .897 save percentage in 29 games. As an unrestricted free agent last summer, he wasn't able to land an NHL job in a salary-cap league where the premium put on high-priced goaltending hasn't been as high in recent years.
Turco joined EC Red Bull Salzburg in Austria in February. He skated in 10 games, including that club's six-game, first-round playoff defeat that ended March 1. Turco called Austria "beautiful" and had nothing but praise for the Red Bull organization.
"I don't take for granted my time there. To go out there and practice with my head up today, it's just largely in part to playing for those guys," said Turco, who posted a 2.64 GAA and .934 save percentage in four regular-season games, and a 3.16 GAA and .911 save percentage in the playoffs. "So I don't second guess my decision to go over there and go play for them. It was a lot of fun, met a lot of great people and had some good friendships."
Just because Turco signed with Boston didn't mean he was going to get to wear a Bruins sweater. While a Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulation would've prevented him from playing a game for any claiming team, he still could've been blocked on the waiver wire. Once noon passed, he got to resume his career.
"It's just another chapter in the book. You get dressed, prepare to practice, but after you do you have to adhere to the rules and wait for the nod," he said. "So you sit there in the bullpen. More it felt like I was 15 years old again waiting to practice with the big boys … but it was even a better feeling when I got the thumbs up from Pete (GM Peter Chiarelli). I got out there with some excitement in the blood."
Turco said he felt fine in practice and it wouldn't take him long to be game-ready should starting goaltender Tim Thomas
need a day off. Bruins coach Claude Julien
expects to play his goaltending situation by ear once he gets to see more of Turco and gets a feel for both his and Thomas' needs down the stretch. With the Bruins hanging on to a precarious lead on Ottawa in the Northeast Division, every game is important. But Boston still plays, on average, one game every other day the rest of the regular season, so Thomas might need a breather or two.
Regardless of what role he plays in Boston's stretch run, Turco's hard work and his decision to preserve what was left of a stellar career have been rewarded after a fall and winter full of doubts.
"I'm not going to lie, some days it was a real kick in the pants," he said about waiting so long to get back to the NHL. "Part of the reason why I feel like I've had success, or even made the NHL for that matter, is the expectations I have, where you expect to be. So when you know you have better and you disappoint in previous seasons, not to be in the League or have belief from others can be demeaning.
"But as difficult as it was, I went to bed a hockey player and still woke up like one, and I knew I still had stuff to give in this League. I would really kick myself hard if I missed an opportunity if I wasn't ready. And that's the one thing I could look in the mirror for this season, as this moment, and be most proud of, is I skated as often as I could to be ready for moments like this."