It’s a long road from the depths of Swiss hockey to the top of the National Hockey League.
And Martin Gerber will be the first to tell you it’s been anything but a straight, narrow path to his current role as a key contributor to the Ottawa Senators’ early season success.
“Everybody dreamed about it,” the 32-year-old goaltender said about growing up in Switzerland and hoping to play the best hockey league in the world. “But (the National Hockey League) was too far away. It wasn't like you go here and make this, this and this, and then you play in the NHL. It wasn’t like that at all.”
Especially when you’re toiling for a second division team in the Swiss Elite League. And not exactly the best one, either.
“It was tough (to get noticed),” said Gerber. “You play in a second division in Switzerland. There’s no scouts walking around, looking at guys who play for the bottom team.”
Gerber, who grew up a big fan of Patrick Roy and Grant Fuhr, admits he was “pretty late” in getting started as a goaltender.
“I had to go a ways around to even get to the top (Swiss) league. It was a long way and then from there ... I always had small goals, reachable goals, realistic goals and I just wanted to make small step by small step.”
His big break came when he was chosen to play for Switzerland at the 2000 world hockey championship in Germany. A year later, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks selected him in the eighth round of the 2001 entry draft.
After a strong season with Farjestads in Sweden’s top league in 2001-02, Gerber earned an invite to Ducks training camp.
“At that point, it was realistic for me to say ‘I want to go to the NHL,’ ” said Gerber. “I thought it was in me to do it and I really had the chance to do it.
“I had a good year in Sweden and thought I might as well try (the NHL). Why not? I got the opportunity in Anaheim to be backup goalie. It was good timing there.”
He's been an NHLer ever since, first for the Ducks and then with the Carolina Hurricanes, for whom he earned a Stanley Cup ring two seasons ago. Now he’s trying to do the same for the Senators.
Given the long and winding road it’s taken to get him here, Gerber isn’t taking a moment of his time in the nation's capital for granted.
“You’ve got to work every day,” said Gerber. “Look around, things go fast. You really have to be on top of it or you never know what’s going to happen.
“You just try your best and try to be as successful as possible.”