Goalie adjusts to life in Florida
By PIERRE LEBRUN
(CP) - Alex Auld got his first glimpse of his new life in Florida this week as the threat of hurricane Ernesto had residents bracing for the worst.
"That was an eye-opener definitely," the former Vancouver Canucks goalie said from Fort Lauderdale. "Everyone was at Wal-Mart buying all the water and gas stations were lined up around the corner. It's something I'll need to get used to, that's for sure."
Luckily Ernesto fizzled before it hit the coast and Florida avoided the first big threat this year. Now Auld hopes to hit Florida by storm, intent on proving he is indeed a No. 1 goalie. His 33 wins in Vancouver last season, his first has a full-time starter, was eighth-best in the NHL - only two behind star Roberto Luongo of the Panthers, whom he's switched jobs with this summer.
"Getting to play every night and getting the chance to battle through ups and downs throughout the season, that was a great opportunity," Auld said. "Last year was a great stepping stone. It was a great experience."
But it wasn't enough to sway the Canucks that he was the answer for good. Auld insists he doesn't take it personally.
"I was there for a lot of years when Clouts (Dan Cloutier) would rattle off 30-win seasons and it was like nothing. Everyone said he wasn't good enough. And then I wasn't good enough. Who's been good enough since Kirk (MacLean)? I don't know, but it's a tough place to play as a goalie," Auld said. "And I hope Roberto does well. That being said, in all honesty, I loved playing there. The fans were great to me. I just think really at the time in my career and where that team was at, I didn't really fit. But it was a great experience."
Needing to find a new home for baggage-ridden star Todd Bertuzzi, Vancouver GM Dave Nonis couldn't resist when Luongo became available due to his contract squabbles with the Panthers.
On June 23, on the eve of the NHL entry draft in Vancouver, Nonis and Panthers GM Mike Keenan pulled the trigger: Bertuzzi, Auld, defenceman Bryan Allen and a sixth-round pick in 2007 to Florida in exchange for Luongo, defenceman Lukas Krajicek and a sixth-round pick the next day.
"My wife and I were at the movies," Auld said, recalling that Friday night. "We came out and I had a whole bunch of voice mails and text messages. So did she. I knew something had happened. And I got a text message from my dad who broke down the deal. I couldn't believe it. But at the same time we had all heard the rumblings about a deal with Todd and also Roberto so I figured if those two were a match for a deal that I might be thrown in there as well."
Depending whether you live in Miami or Vancouver, it's either referred to as the Bertuzzi trade or the Luongo deal. Nowhere is it the Auld trade.
"I want to show that I'm a big part of it, too," said the native of Thunder Bay, Ont., who played for Canada at the IIHF world championship in Latvia in May. "There's a lot I want to prove here and I'm excited to do so. Those are two big names, but at the same time I think it's a bit of a feather in my cap to be traded for Roberto. It's a big challenge filling his shoes, that's for sure."
He'll have help doing so, the Panthers getting some insurance for Auld when they signed 41-year-old netminder Ed Belfour on July 25. So who's No. 1 in Florida?
"I've spoken to (head coach) Jacques (Martin) a couple of times since they picked Eddie up and he said nothing really changes for me," said Auld. "He wants us both to play a lot. It's a situation where they want us both to have success. Obviously we both want to play a lot but in talking to Eddie, while we're both competitive, we're going to get along well and be good teammates, first and foremost.
"I'm really looking forward to learning from a future Hall of Famer, that's for sure."
Auld, his wife and their three dogs drove from Thunder Bay to Florida over a week ago, settling in to their new house. They bought a home north of Fort Lauderdale near Bertuzzi and Allen, the three former Canucks settling together in the same area.
"It's a nice area, close to a golf club," Auld. "I guess I need to pick up golf now."
Year-round warm weather, no state income tax, and plenty of peace and quiet. Miami won't be so bad.
"It's a lot different, you're sort of allowed to live your personal life a little more," said Auld. "There's pros and cons to that, obviously. In Vancouver you're always in the spotlight and that's a lot of fun, too, but it'll be nice to just be able to step back, play hockey and be able to go home and leave it at the rink.