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Canadiens Price Hurt; MMA-Trained Condon Takes Over

Canadiens Price Hurt; MMA-Trained Condon Takes Over

Reigning Vezina and Harty Trophy winner Carey Price will miss at least a week with a lower body injury, according to the Montreal Canadiens.

With the Canadiens set to host the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, the team announced Price had been placed on Injured Reserve, retroactive to Thursday, when he reportedly was injured during a game against the Edmonton Oilers:

Price is coming off a historic season that saw him win the award as both the NHL’s bets goaltender and most valuable player, and is widely considered the best puck stopper on the planet. His absence will be a chance for the Canadiens, who stumbled on a Western Canadian road trip after opening the season 9-0-0 to set a new franchise record, to prove they are more than a great goaltender.

It will also be a chance for new backup Mike Condon (pictured below) to prove he’s more than a great story of perseverance.

Montreal Canadiens goalie Mike Condon

Mike Condon has been great as Carey Price’s surprise backup so far this season, and now he’ll get a bigger workload with Price injured. (InGoal file photo)

The Canadiens recalled Dustin Tokarski from the American Hockey League, but indicated the net belongs to Condon, who came (almost) out of nowhere to take Tokarski’s job in the preseason and is 3-0-0 with a .944 save percentage in his first taste of the NHL this season. The 25-year-old Condon was undrafted and unsigned after spending three of his four seasons at Princeton as the backup goaltender, but caught the eye of then-Canadiens goaltending consultant Vincent Reindeau while on consecutive tryout contracts in the ECHL and AHL shortly after his college career ended.

After signing a deal with the Canadiens, Condon turned to Scott Rehm, an MMA fighter who runs Pro Elite Training Center and Fitness in Cape Cod, Mass that summer to prepare for his pro career.

They worked six days a week from July 1 through September rebuild a body that already had two surgically repaired hips in 2011, with a focus on strengthening Condon’s core and his mental game.

“I was a fat, out-of-shape, Olympic-lifting goalie coming out of college with an NHL contract and no idea how to prepare for it,” Condon said. “It was a lonely summer, just me and him in a warehouse in the middle of nowhere in Cape Cod. He’s not only a strength coach, but he’s good mentally. As a goalie it can be hard to take advice from people who haven’t played, but there are certain characters you meet that have a lot more credibility in your eyes, who have actually stepped into that proverbial ring. When you talk about stress with him, he has actually had to step into a cage with a guy next to him who can physically kill him.

“There’s a preparation and an intensity there we both have,” Condon continued. “It’s almost like getting in fight shape. On a [penalty kill], your heart rate goes up to 180 and the quicker you can get your heart back down to a comfortable rate around 130, a working heart rate, and still be able to breath and keep your eyes open and react, that’s the biggest thing. To be able to react and think when your body is fully stressed, that’s what we try to mimic.”

So far, so good, though Condon’s work in the gym may be tested more now that Price out.

When Price returns, it’s his work ethic and playing style that has the Canadiens convinced he’s the right fit for the job.

Canadiens goaltending coach Stephane Waite thinks Condon’s game fits the job description. He can and will challenge outside his crease in the right situation, just as Price does, but mostly plays a controlled, contained game that is less reliant on the rhythm of playing a lot. Many observers were surprised to see Condon get the job ahead of Tokarski, who had to clear waivers to be sent down to the AHL, and that’s somewhat understandable considering Condon wasn’t even the starter until his senior season at Princeton, and spent most of his first pro season in the ECHL two years ago. But Condon is used to the unique demands of not playing a lot.
Canadiens' goalie coach Stephane Waite likes Condon's compete and style. (InGoal file photo)

Canadiens’ goalie coach Stephane Waite likes Condon’s compete and style. (InGoal file photo)

“He’ll be good at it and he doesn’t have to play a lot of games to be good because of the way he plays and the size he’s got,” Waite said. “It’s not like a reactor goalie that has to play a lot to be good. Guys who like to challenge, they have to play a lot of be good. if you play just two or three times a month, thats tough, but that kind of goalie (Condon), I’m not worried for him.”

Neither is Price, who brushed aside technical talk and pointed right to Condon’s desire.

“The obvious thing is he really wanted it,” Price told InGoal when the Canadiens were in Vancouver. “He came into camp in great shape and he just willed his way in there. I haven’t seen a guy that is probably more deserving of that spot than him. He took advantage of the opportunities that were given to him. He knew he had a shot at camp and he came in and did everything right. You just got to take your hat off to that.”

No wonder Waite, who points out a good backup can be the difference between making and missing the playoffs, isn’t worried about the Condon having the necessary work ethic.

“If you want to stay sharp there’s no secret: Do extra every day and I will tell you when it’s time to leave the ice,” Waite said. “He’ll never ask ‘that’s enough, no more.’ He’ll never ask that.”

Condon has never had that luxury. Since getting a taste of NHL life when Montreal included him among the Black Ace extras in the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past two seasons, Condon has done everything in his power to get there full time, even if it’s in a part-time role.

“People say I was dedicated and I sacrificed but it’s a lot of cliched terms unless you actually do it, unless you can look yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and say ‘I worked as hard as I could,’” Condon said. “All the nerves and anxiety are a lot easier to manage when you can look in the mirror and say you did everything you could to prepare for your moment.”

Now that his moment is here, Condon plans to work to hold onto it.

“I’ve been on sleeper buses in the east coast league,” he said. “I have seen what a privilege this is and I don’t want to go backwards so I am going do everything I can to go forward.”

~ Look for more from our conversation with Mike Condon in a future edition of InGoal Magazine

About The Author

Kevin Woodley

Kevin Woodley is a rec-league target and former contributing editor of the Goalie News magazine. He has written about the Vancouver Canucks and NHL for The Associated Press, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News for the last decade, and covered the 2010 Olympics for The AP.

4 Comments

  1. Paul Ipolito

    Hard work and a great attitude can take you a long way. Another article to laminate and give to my son. Good luck to Mike.

  2. Rasmussen

    Why full Bauer, and a CCM catch glove?

    • Ceyhun

      I’m nearly the same like him. The gloves of Bauer and CCM/Reebok are really having their differences, starting from catching angle or the pocket sizes. I like the Ccm/Reebok more and the blockers of Bauer are having a more massive feeling that’s why I use them actually-

  3. Ian Wotherspoon

    Actually I’m interested in what Paul Ipolito had to say and to tell him if he’s interested in anything that would help to motivate his son I’m sure I could still find something I haven’t given away. The only thing I would ask in payment would be for you to cover the cost of shipping it, of course that depends on what it is. One last thing, how old is your son and does he play House League or competitive. I had a gentleman last year who said he had a son and when I asked the same question it turned out that his son was in his mid twenties and playing in a men’s league. I would still have information here but if I don’t I’m sure I can lead you to the right website / person. I coached goalies from Novice to JR. A over a 40 year span and retired from coaching in 2011. Hip surgery can be something that stays with you so tell your son to be careful and if there is even the slightest pain “listen to what it is telling you. and take yourself off the ice, call the physio-therapist and/or doctor. Joints are something we don’t play around with. I know these things by experiencing them personally (knees).
    Write through this site and if I think I have something that might help

    Ian Wotherspoon – Retired Goalie Coach with 40 years of experience up too and including the HyBrid which most goalies are using today.