http://www.southerngazette.ca/Sports/Ho ... or-issue/1
By Brendan McCarthy
A little brainteaser:
Of the nearly 100 goaltenders who appeared in National Hockey League games last season, which ones had seniority based on continuous, uninterrupted big-league service?
In other words, which netminders had the longest runs in the NHL without having played in the minors?
Not surprisingly, Martin Brodeur, who last played in the AHL in 1992-93 (with the Utica Devils) topped the list. Nikolai Khabibulin (Springfield Indians, 1994-95) was next, followed by J.S. Giguere (Saint John Flames) and Roberto Luongo (Louisville Panthers — remember then they were in the AHL? — in 2000-01)
Next on the list are three goalies who made it to the NHL at the start of the 2005-06 season and remained there all the way through 2013-14.
They are Ilya Bryzgalov (we’ll exempt him for his dozen KHL games during the lockout a couple of years ago), Henrik Lundqvist and …
Ryan Miller? No. He played a bit with the Rochester Americans in 2005-06.
Marc-Andre Fleury? Sorry. He saw some action with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins that same season.
Craig Anderson? Nope. He was with Rochester for a time in 2006-07.
Martin Biron? Wrong, too. His NHL tenure was broken by a short stint with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in 2009-10.
The right choice would be Peter Budaj, who played nine straight seasons in the big leagues, first with the Colorado Avalanche and then with the Montreal Canadiens, starting in 2005.
It’s a streak that will likely come to an end this weekend as the St. John’s IceCaps begin a new AHL season with three road games in as many days.
But if you think his first assignment to the minors in nearly a decade or the surprising and quickly evolving events that led to him being with the IceCaps have Budaj shaken, then you are unaware of the man’s resolve and character.
“I’m not going to tell you that this has all been easy,” said Budaj, who was acquired by the Winnipeg Jets in a trade on Sunday, then put on waivers for the purpose of sending him to St. John’s.
“But it’s not all hard either. I love hockey. I love to play hockey and I just remind myself that’s what I’ll be doing.
“This is a situation and believe me, I will make the best of it. That means working hard and staying positive, but I like to believe that’s how I would be whatever the situation.
“So I’m determined to work as hard as I can to help the team put some wins together and hopefully use it as a stepping stone to get back to the NHL.”
Just a few days ago, 32-year-old Budaj thought the trade that brought him to the Jets’ organization was going to keep him in the NHL. He had been squeezed out of the picture in Montreal by the presence of Carey Price and the emergence of Dustin Tokarski, but thought he had a place with his new team. And it wasn’t like his most recent work history — 10-8-3 record and 2.51 goals-against-average with the Habs last season — would have you thinking he wasn’t still capable of holding a place on a big-league roster.
“I was happy to join the Winnipeg organization, but then there was the news that I was being put on waivers and would most likely come here if I cleared,” he said. “A lot of that happened in a short period of time, decisions were made and I didn’t have a say. These were things I couldn’t control, but that’s part of this game.
“But I never thought about not reporting here. I always intended to honour my contract and do my best.”
With a $1.4 million one-way contract, he will be well-paid for his efforts, but of far greater comfort is the presence of his wife Taylor and four-year-old son Peter Jr., who have joined him in St. John’s during what has been a whirlwind week.
“On a personal level, it definitely shakes things up, but my wife is doing a tremendous job coping with it, especially since we actually have another baby coming on the way. It’s definitely not easy on her, but she knew marrying me meant that this could be a side of the hockey life.”
What’s more, Budaj, who is a devout Christian, knows he can rely on his spirituality.
“A lot,” he answered when asked how his faith has helped him cope in the last few days.
“But you don’t turn to your faith only in tough times. It’s not like calling on the genie from Aladdin when things are tough and putting him back in the bottle when you don’t need him.
“You have to remember your faith in the very good times, too, and I have had lots of those.
“I’m not saying I’m a saint, but I try to be a man of faith at all times. It’s not always easy, but it does give me peace of mind.”
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