Among the Vancouver Canucks, and University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, there was a blue helmet that stuck out: a Maple Leafs goalie mask, to be precise.
Welcome, James Reimer.
Reimer on Monday morning joined a handful of Canucks still practising regularly at UBC and a bevy of young guns who study at the school and play for the Thunderbirds. A charity game -- “Bieksa’s Buddies” versus the kids -- is scheduled for Wednesday night at UBC.
Reimer’s appearance -- as the lockout grows tedious, monotonous -- was a small spark of news. Is he readying for a possible Vancouver-Toronto trade, once the lockout ends, the departure of one Roberto Luongo to Hogtown and the arrival of Reimer in Lotusland?
Not exactly. Reimer, with his wife April, are visiting her parents, who live in the Vancouver region, and Reimer has a summer place up in Kelowna in the B.C. Interior, home to many hockey players in the off-season.
Asked about the Luongo spectre, Reimer was in good humour, smiling and laughing. Toronto, however, does remain among the teams in need of a goaltender that Vancouver thinks it could make a trade with.
“If you want to the truth, go to Twitter,” said Reimer after the light practice of rumours online. “That’s funny, I didn’t even really think about that. Yeah, I’m sure the rumours will be spreading. But as far as I know, when the season comes back, I’m still a Maple Leaf.”
If a trade brought Luongo to Toronto, and relegated Reimer, the young starter was sanguine.
“If he came, I’d try and make the best of that situation. He’s a heck of a goaltender, and he’s got a tonne of experience, so I could learn a tonne from him. And if he doesn’t come, well, then I have more of an opportunity to play.”
Reimer’s plans are in flux. He has not been officially “drafted” for Kevin Bieksa’s charity game, but plans to hang around Vancouver for at least a little while, appreciating the “pretty good skate” the cadre of Canucks have going on at UBC (where, for one, the Sedin twins remain active, as well as goaltender Cory Schneider).
Reimer also said he is in great health, with no lingering issues from the concussion that waylaid him last season. He said he would have been ready to go for opening day last week, had the players not been locked out.
As for that disaster of last season, falling from a solid playoff spot in mid-February before plummeting to 25th place in the NHL -- becoming the only team to miss the playoffs in all seven years of the last CBA -- Reimer was again in fairly good spirits.
“Just a good, tough year, in the sense that tough times help you grow,” he said.
Reimer, who turned 24 last March during the implosion, noted the Leafs were a young team and among the youngest in the league when the season ended.
“Some adversity hit and, you know, as a young team maybe we just couldn’t handle it. But now we’re all a year older, and we’ve all experienced that. And so we’re just growing, we’re getting better. When this year gets going I don’t see why we couldn’t make a strong playoff push.”