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For NHL netminder, fast reflexes not always the goal

Craig Anderson takes lessons from Ron Fellows at his Corvette driving school

Ron Fellow Performance Driving School

Quick reflexes always served Craig Anderson well. After all, they played a huge part in getting him to the National Hockey League.

But the Ottawa Senators goalie soon discovered that the lightning fast reactions that help him excel at stopping pucks became a liability behind the wheel of a high-performance Corvette on a racetrack.

"It actually hurt me and I had to slow everything down: Cars don't like quick adjustments, so they don't like quick hands and quick feet," said Anderson who was between the pipes for 11 of the Senators' 32 wins in 2010-2011 despite starting only 18 games after being traded to Ottawa from the Colorado Avalanche in February

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"Everything needs to be done slow and controlled to not upset the car and not put yourself in more trouble."

The 31-year-old netminder spent three days earlier this year at the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School getting some advanced instruction in his preferred ride.

While his quick reflexes needed to be retuned, being an NHL goalie played a central role in getting him to the Fellows school at the Spring Mountain Motor Resort near Las Vegas. A Corvette Racing executive spotted his outfit's logo on the back of Anderson's goalie mask and sent him a letter offering some VIP treatment with the race team. Anderson attended the race in Road America last year and met Fellows at the Elkhart Lake, Wis., track. The pair's love of hockey and racing kept them in touch.

"When I got traded to Ottawa, I sent Ron an e-mail and expressed some interest in going to his school and he set it up for me," he said.

"He ended up being there the same weekend I was there."

The love for the Corvette came though Anderson's father who raced when he was young and drove the same model that Fellows piloted to three American Le Mans Series titles.

"We always had a Corvette in the garage when I was growing up, so there was always one around that we could work on, or play with, or drive, so it's been with me since I was a kid," Anderson said.

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"I enjoy getting underneath them and getting them up in the air and doing what needs to be done."

While he hasn't raced himself, Anderson had previously done some "track days" where he put a Corvette through its paces in a controlled and safe environment. Or so he thought.

One thing that stuck Anderson when he arrived at the school and started his training was the fact that his skills behind the wheel needed some serious upgrading.

"Right off the bat, Ron showed us some basics that you think everyone should know and you really don't - it really opens your eyes and makes you realize what you don't know about the vehicle or yourself in the vehicle," he said.

"I'd been around cars and done a lot of driving and going in I thought I would pick up on the stuff pretty quickly but, in reality, when I got in the car and was trying to do the exercises they had me doing, I realized that I am not a terrible driver but I didn't know a lot about driving. I learned a lot about myself and the cars."

One of the coolest things Anderson experienced at the school happened away from the track on the skid pad. In one exercise, the instructors turned off the anti-lock braking system so the students could feel the car going into slides and skids to help them understand what the car is doing and how to deal with it.

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And now if something goes wrong on the road, Anderson feels he'll be much better prepared.

"If something happens, you've already experienced it so you are not freaking out or panicking and that's the biggest thing. People just panic because they don't know what to do and they freeze," he said.

"A school where you've gone through the repetition, you think 'alright I'm in trouble, what do it do?' and then you know the steps because you've been taught them. So, you are more likely to save your life and the passengers that are with you."

Now that he's completed the school, Anderson will be taking his Corvette to local tracks as much as he can to continue to practice the techniques he learned from Fellows.

And, after looking at the slick cars sitting in his teammates' parking spots, he thinks some of his Ottawa Senator colleagues could benefit from a visit to Fellows for some advanced instruction.

"It would be great to get everybody out and have Ron come and do a school with their own cars on a track. In reality, we are all just a bunch of 20-year-old kids without any driver training driving around in sports cars. Things can get a scary pretty quickly in vehicles with lots of horsepower that you don't really know a whole lot about," Anderson said.

"You can't put a price on it because it could save your life down the road."

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