These are the salad days for Jimmy Howard. Literally.
Now that he’s on top of the hockey world as the undisputed No. 1 goaltender of one of the NHL’s marquee franchises, Howard is ready to take his game to the next level. And contrary to what some may think, that means taking it easy this summer and enjoying life away from the rat race of the rink.
Jimmy Howard | #35
The Ogdensburg, N.Y., native finds the pace of life in Maine to his liking, which is why he spends the offseason not far from where he enjoyed a stellar collegiate career.
“To be able to get back here, kick back and relax,” Howard said. “It’s nice just to be able to get a break and to mentally refresh.
“I like to come back here, where life is pretty simple, because the season is so hectic.”
When the Red Wings season ended on May 12 with a loss to the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference semifinals, Howard had seen enough rubber during the regular season and playoffs that he decided that the only ice he would go near would be at the bottom of his glass.
Instead he spent most of the summer working out five days a week at the Shawn Walsh Hockey Center on the Maine campus. Howard has such a close connection to the facilities that he has not only contributed to the project, but has encouraged other former Black Bears to give as well.
Howard arrived on the Orono campus in 2002 after spending two seasons with the National Team Development Program. Like so many NTDP alumni, Howard felt his time in Ann Arbor, Mich., gave him the edge to take his game to the next level.
“I went there in the first place thinking I would get good recognition and get the chance to get a Division I scholarship,” said Howard, who idolized Mike Richter during his youth hockey days. “But I also took it knowing that I could wear USA on the front of my jersey every time I went out there to represent my country.”
Over the next three seasons Howard enjoyed an outstanding collegiate career, earning numerous honors while taking the Black Bears to the NCAA title game in 2004. He still holds NCAA records for goals-against average in a season at 1.19 in and best save percentage with a .956 mark, both set in 2003–04. He also holds Maine records for career shutouts with 15 and single season shutouts with six.
With little left to prove, Howard left after his junior year to embark on a long journey to the NHL that included a four-year stop with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League.
“Each year has been a step in the right direction,” said Howard, who agreed to a two-year, $4.5 million contract extension last February. “I’ve just got to keep refining my game and keep working on the fundamentals. Keep focusing on an even keel and not get too focused on those high peaks, or those low valleys.”
All that hard work put Howard in a position to succeed once he was given his chance. And now, as if his 37-17-5 record and 2.79 goals-against average in 63 games last season weren’t enough, the retirement of long-time Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood has cemented Howard’s place between the pipes in Motown.
Those who know him best believe that Howard has what it takes to be a top-flight goalie in the NHL, while living up to the pressure that comes with following in the skate tracks of some of the game’s top netminders, including Terry Sawchuk, Dominik Hasek, Mike Vernon and Osgood.
“We had a good hunch that he had a bright future in the NHL,” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead.
“He was certainly one of the absolute best players I’ve ever coached in my whole life, just a fierce competitor, just loves to play the game, loves to compete, has a burning desire to win whatever competition he’s in. Whether it’s a game, of course, or a shooting drill after practice, he wants to win it.”
Ryan De Meno
Hometown: Staten Island, N.Y.
Most coaches would flip their lid if their team were whistled for an excessive celebration penalty after scoring a goal. But not Charles Aiosa and Al DiMauro. They were right there with the players as they celebrated Ryan De Meno’s first goal of the season.
Ryan began playing hockey when he was 9 as a way to enhance his social skills and begin to make friends. Early on he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is among a number of ailments associated with autism. Almost 10 years later, his participation in hockey has been a leading reason that he has been able to mainstream in school and make friends on and off the ice.
Ryan currently plays for the Bayonne Rangers 18 & Under A team. His spirit has captivated the entire organization, which nominated him as a “Local Hockey Hero” as part of Hockey Weekend Across America.