|Goaltender Craig Anderson is right at home with the Ottawa Senators, the first team he's played for in his NHL career that is based in a hockey-mad Canadian market (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images).
Happy days are here indeed for Craig Anderson.
The 30-year-old native of Park Ridge, Ill., couldn’t be more enthused about entering a season for the first time as the starting goaltender for a National Hockey League team in a Canadian market. He’s been welcomed with open arms by Ottawa and the Senators since being obtained in a Feb. 18 trade with the Colorado Avalanche.
Life got even better on July 5, when Anderson and his wife, Nicole, welcomed their first child, a boy named Jake.
Anderson speaks about the changes in his life and the season to come:
Q: You’re starting a season in a Canadian market for the first time. How much does that excite you?
A: For me, it’s going to be different. Everywhere else I’ve been, whether it’s in Florida and Colorado, we weren’t doing so well and the fan base wasn’t there in those cities. In Canada, there’s a certain bar of expectations to be met that you don’t get elsewhere, just because of the market we’re in.
Q: Your thoughts about playing behind what will be a much younger Senators team.
A: I think we’re young, but we still have a pretty good group of core veteran players to bring the young guys along. I’m very optimistic about our youth. I’m hoping our young guys are smarter and more mature than everybody assumes young people should be. With our veteran guys bringing them along and the coaching staff doing their job to the best of their ability, we’ll be surprising more people than they think.
Q: Two years ago, you played 71 games for the Colorado Avalanche. Do you like that kind of workload?
A: Anybody who plays at this level wants to play as much as they possibly can. You don’t get here by wanting to play 30 games. You get to this level because you dominated in the American league or you dominated in junior. So that’s the ultimate goal, to play as many games as you possibly can. There’s times that players need rest, there’s times that players can be really tired, but some players can handle it. I’ve proven in the past that, with the right surroundings and with the right group in front of me, there’s no reason why, if called upon to play 70 games, I couldn’t do it. Inevitably, it comes down to how well I play and how well the team is playing. You’re only as good as the five guys on the ice in front of you. That’s the nature of the goaltending position — the better the team plays, the better you look. There’s going to be nights where you bail the team out and you just have to do it. It’s not going to happen every night, but there’s going to be nights when the team bails you out as well.
"Anybody who plays at this level wants to play as much as they possibly can. You don’t get here by wanting to play 30 games. You get to this level because you dominated in the American league or you dominated in junior. So that’s the ultimate goal, to play as many games as you possibly can ... I’ve proven in the past that, with the right surroundings and with the right group in front of me, there’s no reason why, if called upon to play 70 games, I couldn’t do it. Inevitably, it comes down to how well I play and how well the team is playing." - Craig Anderson
Q: Who were your goaltending idols growing up?
A: Grant Fuhr and Patrick Roy are the two guys I grew up in love with or idolizing or however you want to put it. When I was growing up in the ‘80s, Grant Fuhr was winning championships and in the ‘90s, it was Patrick Roy. You idolize the guys who have success. You’re not going to idolize a guy who plays in the league for two seasons and then retires. Young boys idolize the guys who have success and those two goalies are probably two of the most successful goaltenders (ever) in the National Hockey League that I grew up with.
Q: Did you always want to be a goaltender?
A: Yes, because I wasn’t a very good skater. I was always a step slow and I wasn’t big enough to be a forward. I didn’t really I could excel, as a youth, at any other position. As a goalie, I found I could be a game changer, someone who could make a difference right from the get go when I was a kid. When I played baseball growing up, I was a pitcher, catcher or a middle infielder. I was always in the middle of the action, always feeling like I could make a difference. That was the way I grew up.
Q: What excites you the most about playing the position?
A: Just the challenge of it. You’re one on one with the shooter and if you do well, you get the recognition and the hero status. Not everybody can be in that light. It takes a certain special someone to take that situation and make the most of it and be in that spotlight. But we can’t do our jobs without the five guys in front of us … so the credit has to be spread around. If the five guys in front of you are doing the job to the best of their ability, it makes you look like a hero. It’s a give and take. If it wasn’t a team sport, I guess we’d be playing golf. The guys around you support and you’re there to bail them out when they need it.
Q: How are you enjoying being a dad for the first time?
A: It’s a lot of work but every time you see him, it puts a smile on your face. He kind of puts life into perspective and lets you know what’s No. 1 on the totem pole. Your priorities get shifted around and nothing else matters. You know, at the end of a bad day, you’ll go home and he’ll be there laughing and giggling. There really is no such thing as a bad day in the big picture.