Have pads, will travel.
Such is the life of a goaltender - even a NHL goalie. Just ask Fred Brathwaite.
The 5-7 netminder from Ottawa played his junior hockey in the OHL with the Oshawa Generals, London Knights and Detroit Jr. Red Wings.
Undrafted despite a stellar junior career, Brathwaite was signed by the Edmonton Oilers as a free agent walk on in 1993. He played only 40 games in the NHL over three seasons before heading down the highway to Calgary.
Brathwaite was something of a Flames saviour when, after a string of goaltending injuries, general manager Al Coates signed the 5-7 netminder from Canada's national team.
Brathwaite's success in Calgary helped keep Brathwaite in demand over the remainder of his career. He had a 20 year professional career with stops with the Oilers, Flames, St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets. He played a total of 254 games in the NHL.
“It just shows that if you work hard — you have to get the right opportunities as well — but if you work hard and don’t let things bother you and follow your dream, that things can happen like that,” he said.
His career brought him to a number of other leagues, including the KHL in Russia and Deutsche Eishockey Liga in Germany, where he won league MVP honours in 2009. He also spent a season with Canada’s national team in 1998-99.
Brathwaite credits his time in the international game with growing his goaltending ability.
"The biggest thing is that I became more patient," he said when asked how he has improved the past two seasons. "They don't play the dump and chase much there. You learn to adjust, play a little further back in the net.
"You see European goalies and they read the play so well, it seems they always know where the puck is going. Those guys don't shoot as much (as North Americans). They love to pass the puck."
By my count Brathwaite played in more than 900 junior and pro/international games. He enjoyed every single one.
“I was lucky that I was injury-free, but I really enjoyed coming to the rink,” Brathwaite said of his career. “I enjoyed going to work every day. I know a lot of people wouldn’t call it work, but for me, it was going to work, being with the guys and working hard."
For Brathwaite it was always a battle for respect.
“I wasn’t a big goalie, so everyday, I had to try and prove people wrong and that made it fun for me as well.”