Tuesday, April 1, 2014

James Reimer and What it Takes to be a Role Model in the NHL

This is a picture of what James Reimer is best at.

Like his hockey ability or not, this is what makes James Reimer an exceptional athlete. This picture was taken on March 8th at the morning skate at the ACC. Unfortunately, it was also the last win the Leafs had and since then, they have lost 8 straight games and with it, the probable loss of the post-season.

Much of the blame from Leafs Nation fell upon James during this time. I was appalled to see his wife, April getting obscene messages from Leafs fans about her husband's play on the ice. What the disgruntled fan doesn't see is that they have one of the sport of hockey's more engaging and down to earth athletes, and they are responsible for killing his chances of returning a Toronto Maple Leaf.

There isn't a team mate in the dressing room that dis-likes James Reimer. Why? Because he has the heart of gold. He's the first person on the ice, and the last off it. He does a ton of charity work, he is a devout man of faith, and he signs more autographs in the public as an act of service.

When I took this picture, James was the last off the Leafs morning skate, and he spent about 20 minutes signing autographs in the tunnel leading to the dressing room. Not only did he sign, he engaged the kids, asked them where they played, how they were doing, smiled, and then he came to this woman in the wheelchair...

I watched in awe as he took 10 minutes with her alone. Reimer stayed and chatted and then reached over to the trainer and asked him to bring him one of his Goal sticks and he asked the woman if she would like a signed stick. Well, you have never seen a more elated fan than her! Then I watched Reimer look down the hall, do a 360 turn to make sure he hadn't missed a kid, a fan, ANYONE that wanted to meet him or have his autograph, before he went into the dressing room. You see, he hasn't forgotten what its like to have your favourite player become your favourite PERSON, as a fan. He makes sure that everyone he meets has a great customer service experience, and that they get to feel special, even for the briefest of moments.

And that's what we want in our role models.

We all have bad days at the office, and make mistakes that the rest of our workplace has to make up for and yet we would love it when people give us space in our "slump" Yet, we are the first to cast the finger at James Reimer because he was going through a tough ride when the Leafs were playing terrible in front of him. Former NHL heavyweight tough guy, Jim Thomson once told me, "We're all going to go through slumps in our career. If you are the type of person that everyone loves as a team mate in the dressing room, you will have 19 guys supporting you to get out of the funk. However, if you are the asshole in the dressing room, your team mates will let you rot..."

I wonder where the leadership of Dion Phaneuf has been in stepping up for Reimer? That's what a captain is for. The way Dion has handled this is pathetic, and its consistent with his own play on the ice.

The really comical thing here is, everyone seems to forget that James Reimer was single handedly responsible for carrying the Leafs on his shoulders and leading them into the playoffs. And of all the hall-of-fame goaltenders that Toronto has ever had, Broda, Bower, Sawchuk, Plante, Parent, Belfour (and soon to be) Cujo, Reimer has the single season highest save percentage as a Leafs goalie, EVER. That's some skill to be at the top of that company...

So I want to say thank you for giving us your absolute best every night James Reimer. Sometimes, it wasn't in the result of a win, but I know that you gave Toronto your absolute best effort, and that's all we can ever ask for from anyone. You are a class act, and you are going to be just find wherever your journey takes you. I just wish more hockey player out there got it like you seem to get it.

Good luck in your future, and please allow me to apologize on behalf of all those hurtful Toronto fans that caused you and April unneeded stress in a most challenging time. You didn't need it, and they surely didn't have the appreciation to see your wonderful heart. So feel sorry for them, they are after all, Leafs fans...

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