Freedom Fighters

Justin Goldman

2010-07-05

Niittymaki

 

If there was one subject I loved more than any other in high school and college, it was world and state history. Whether it was the fight for the Alamo or the Civil War, not a day went by where I didn’t ponder a country or society's fight for independence. It was not just a lesson in history's wild timeline, but a lesson in life and in human nature.

 

As a high school and college goaltender, I experienced more bloody battles lost than wonderful wars won. As such, I went through many of my own personal ice fights for freedom. Whether the goal was to get more starts or simply out-perform another set of goalies in tryouts, I fought hard to create an identity in a world full ofother unique netminders.

 

And now, as a pro goalie scout, I easily recognize those same trials, tribulations and traits in goalies all over the world. That struggle to prolong a storied career, the fight for a second chance or the battle to bounce back from an abysmal season happens to every player on the road to the NHL. But with only two spots per team for a goalie, only a select few will celebrate their own independence, while the rest will fail and continue to trudge forward.

 

This is the circle of life for an elite goaltender. It's simply part of what makes the position so stressful and rewarding.

 

There are many reasons why a goalie thrives under a new sense of freedom. For one, they receive a big boost in confidence. When goalies fail to win one war, they feel alone, ashamed, unwanted. But when another army comes calling, they are once again wanted, needed and important to winning the war. For goalies that battle in the minors and finally get the call from the big club's General Manager, the sense of accomplishment is like none other. They feel special, like one perfect tasty grape plucked off the vine of thousands.

 

This positive reinforcement reassures the goaltender that they are capable of not only being a winner, but a great leader as well. And every goalie longs for that increased role on the team, so most of them thrive and improve. They all work hard for that moment and they'll be buried deep in the ground before they let that opportunity slip away.

 

Just in the last week, a string of goalies from Antero Niittymaki to Dany Sabourin have been rewarded with a chanceto write a new chapter in their careers. Their patience and perseverance has paid off, as they see a rise in their short and long-term value.So in order to sort out the mass confusion that was the free agent frenzy, here's a look at eight goalies that have fought hard for their own independence.

 

ANTERO NIITTYMAKI –Although many goalies moved in the last week, Niittymaki's leap from Tampa Bay to San Jose is easily the biggest fantasy boost of them all. He'll be pushed by Thomas Greiss to hold onto the starting role, but statistically s