SPORTS

Rayzor Sharp-A Chat with the Leafs New #1 Goalie

9/25/2006

When G.M. John Ferguson Jr. traded away goaltending prospect Tukka Rask to the Bruins for Andrew ‘Rayzor’ Raycroft, many Buds fans wondered if their team just traded away the future for a one-year wonder.



When G.M. John Ferguson Jr. traded away goaltending prospect Tukka Rask to the Bruins for Andrew ‘Rayzor’ Raycroft, many Buds fans wondered if their team just traded away the future for a one-year wonder.



As the 03-04 rookie of the year, Raycroft lived up to his sharp nickname leading the Bruins to the the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference (right behind the eventual Cup winning Tampa Bay Lightning) posting a 2.05 goals against average and .926 save percentage.

After the lockout Rayzor played more like butter than Ginsu. Hampered by hamstring and knee problems and hit hard by the trade of Bruins captain Joe Thorton, he struggled and lost his starting role.

The Leafs’ brass is confident last year was just a blip and signed the 26-year-old from Belleville Ontario to a three-year $6 million (US) deal. Raycroft is intent on making them glad they took a gamble on him and he’s also up for the challenge of winning over the Toronto faithful.


You had a pretty rough sophomore season. Do you think the change of scenery will help you regain your form?

My performance last year was disappointing but now I feel great physically and this is a fresh start for me. I look at all this pressure that’s on me to perform here as a positive. It’s a new beginning, and I’m going to make the most of it.

A fan on the Leafs official message board wrote a welcome letter to you saying: ‘This is a difficult city to please, they'll rip into you and make you weep until you prove you're worthy of being here. I believe you will prove you are worthy though. If you bleed blue and white for us, we'll bleed with you.’ Are you pumped about playing for such passionate fans?

Yeah I’m pumped! That’s great—I’m really excited to play for fans like that. Who wouldn’t be? If you don’t work hard and let in a few soft goals then sure they’ll get on your case but on the flipside, if you do the opposite and get hot for a few games then you’ll get double the support.

You were drafted pretty deep in 1998, fifth round, 135th overall. Did you always feel you’d make it to the NHL?

Looking back I was probably a little naïve but I always did think I’d make it. I thought I’d play junior, get drafted, then play in the minor leagues for a few more years and then get called up. I’m very lucky to have had everything go according to plan because for so many people it just doesn’t.

If your life took a different turn somewhere along the line and you didn’t end up in the NHL, what do you think you’d be doing right now?

I’d probably have gotten a degree in business and have done something to do with numbers. I was never much into writing essays in school but I did enjoy crunching numbers.

So you would’ve become an accountant?
Well, maybe not something that boring.

Goalies who have won the Calder have gone on to long and fruitful careers: Martin Brodeur (1994), Evgeni Nabokoov (2001) Tom Barasso (1984) and Ken Dryden (1972). Are you proud to be part of such an elite group?

Absolutely. You only have one chance to win the Calder and I’m proud to have my name on the same trophy as all those guys. If I could have a career half as good as Marty Brodeur’s I’d be happy.

If everything goes well and the Leafs win the Stanley Cup this year how would you choose to spend your day with it?

I’d probably do something really low key. Just have a couple guys over and drink beer out of the Cup.

Goalies have been mythologized as fearless masked warriors, have you ever been scared on the ice?

Definitely, but not during a game but during some drills in practice for sure. Sometimes I hope they don’t buzz the tower(shoot for my head)

Goalies get a lotta love in hockey, maybe it’s because everybody can sympathize with what they’re up against every game: you get pummeled with pucks, you fall on the ice, but you always get back up again. When you were growing up were goalies always your favourite players?

Yeah they were… I always liked the goalies. Patrick Roy and Felix ‘the Cat’ Potvin were really big when I was growing up and I caught the tail end of Grant Fuhr’s career as well and he was amazing.

Copyright © Mike Dojc 2006

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