Is Hamilton a Hotbed for NHL Goalies?, News (Hamilton Jr Bulldogs)

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Is Hamilton a Hotbed for NHL Goalies?
Submitted By Dianne Skirving on Saturday, September 30, 2017
SPORTS 07:00 PM by Teri Pecoskie  Hamilton Spectator  

It's kind of a typical story, how Tyrone Garner became a goalie — his words.

It starts when he was eight or so and his dad, who had just outfitted him from head to toe in conventional gear, took him to his first practice at Saltfleet Arena, close to where the youngster grew up in Stoney Creek.

"The coach comes in and says, 'Who wants to play goal? We don't have a goalie,'" he remembers. "My hand goes up and that was kind of the beginning of the end."




Garner's story becomes a little less typical after that. As it turns out, he's good, really good, and ends up climbing the ranks from AAA all the way to the NHL. And, while his time in the show was short-lived — he played just three games for the Calgary Flames during the team's injury-plagued 1998-99 campaign — it nonetheless puts him in a club alongside the likes of Don Edwards, Cam Talbot and multiple Stanley Cup and Vezina Trophy winner Ken Dryden.

Garner, now 39, is one of 11 goalies born in the Hamilton area who have played at least one game in the NHL. And it's possible the simple fact that he comes from Stoney Creek could have had something to do with it.

Using the online hockey database HockeyDB, The Spectator found that more than 13 per cent — an unusually high proportion — of the 83 local players with at least one regular season NHL game under their belts are goalies.

For the league as a whole, it's less than 10 per cent.

"I had no clue that number was so high," Garner says. "That's a crazy stat."

The trend extends to surrounding communities as well. For instance, 19 per cent of NHLers from Niagara Falls are goalies, as are 14 per cent from Brantford, 16 per cent from Oakville and 13 per cent from St. Catharines.

Look a little further away from Hamilton, though, and the proportion begins to drop — in some cases, below the NHL average. In Toronto, 10 per cent of NHLers are goalies, compared to nine per cent in Kingston, seven per cent in Ottawa and 12 per cent in London.

It's not the only evidence the Hamilton area, which includes places like Grimsby, Burlington and Caledonia, might be a hotbed for NHL goalies, either. At more than 190 regular season games, the goalies from here also have more staying power — the league average is 154.

Garner admits you have to be a bit weird to be a goalie — "a little different if you're going to stand in front of pucks that are coming 100 kilometres an hour at you." So perhaps Hamilton just has more than its fair share of oddballs?

The former Oshawa Generals puckstopper isn't sure.

"I can't think of any reason, to be honest," Garner says.

Joel Hulsman, however, has a guess.

Hulsman, the Kenesky Sports owner, says the trends might have something to do with Hamilton being home to his business's namesake goalie school, which counts Garner and Mark Visentin among its graduates and Talbot among its instructors.

Nick Grainger, the goalie coach for the Hamilton Bulldogs and owner of Grainger Goaltending School, agreed.

The Kenesky Goalie School and Kenesky brand in general are "a staple in the goaltending community," he said. "They were one of the first companies in the area to ever do summer-long goalie camps and really started to kick off the development aspect," he adds — and he suspects that could have played a role.

Others back him up.

Dave Dryden and his Hall of Fame brother Ken Dryden were born here but moved to Etobicoke as kids. They never played organized hockey in Hamilton. Still, the Kenesky brand, however — and especially Pops Kenesky's iconic pads — had a lasting effect on them both.

"As a midget I had a chance to play for the Toronto Marlies system and one of the first things they said to me was 'You'll be able to get Kenesky stuff' and before that all the equipment I had was ordered through the Eaton's catalogue," says the former, who went on to play more than 200 games for the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers.

"It was a real thrill meeting the elder Kenesky and shaking his hand and going to the store. That might be a real significant thing when you talk to the other goalies about how that was the hotbed — the gold standard of goalie equipment.

"Really up until that point, no name or brand name was significant to goaltending," he adds.

Ken Dryden says he's unsure of the brand's impact on the trends uncovered by The Spectator, but, as his brother mentioned, "it's hard to comprehend how big a name Kenesky was among goalies at the time. He made the best goalie pads, and when you're a kid and you're playing, you notice what the best are wearing."

"Whether that had a little to do with why players from Hamilton wanted to be goalies — maybe," he adds. "Or maybe disproportionately kids from Hamilton got Kenesky pads, too. So, it was a sign and it was also encouragement. It was something, maybe, that Kenesky took pride in."

Who are they?

Eleven goalies born in the Hamilton area have played in at least one regular season NHL game. They are Ken Dryden, Andy Brown, Allan Bester, Tyrone Garner, Mark Visentin, Don Edwards, Frank Caprice, Dave Dryden, Ray Emery, Cam Talbot and Al Jensen.

[email protected]

905-526-3368 | @TeriatTheSpec

Teri Pecoskie

by Teri Pecoskie

Teri Pecoskie is a Hamilton Spectator reporter with a focus on the OHL Bulldogs.

Email: [email protected] Twitter

 

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