Last week, Steve Dangle sat down with James Reimer for a rookie spotlight piece for the 2011 Maple Leafs Annual. The interview went so well that a lot of good material ended up hitting the cutting room floor. Lucky for you, MLHS and Steve Dangle.com readers, we can pass along the leftovers for your consumption. Consider it the next bonus feature to your copy of the Annual. Interview excerpts with Poulin, Dudley, and Morrison can be found here. Keith Aulie excerpts will be coming later today. Enjoy:
Steve Dangle: How do you spend your summer?
James Reimer: Mostly in B.C. I mean I try and visit back home to Manitoba a couple of times, but I spend most of my summer out in B.C. Just working out at a gym called Fit Life and hanging out and relaxing a little bit.
SD: Why B.C.? When did that come into the picture?
JR: Mostly with my wife, I started coming out here when we were dating, and we really liked it over the years and kind of just kept coming back so it’s nice. It’s where she’s from. She feels comfortable here plus I found a great gym so it’s those two reasons, mostly.
SD: Do you spend much time in Manitoba during the summer?
JR: I’ll spend probably about three weeks in total, maybe a little more in Manitoba during the summer but definitely most of the time is in B.C. My whole family lives in Manitoba. My brother who’s married lives in Winnipeg but all the rest of my siblings live very close to where I grew up (Morweena).
SD: I remember talking to you really briefly after your first AHL win, which was also in the shootout. You also had that marathon 11-round shootout win in London before the season began. I asked you about your strategy at the time, because you didn’t know any of the shooters, and it was ‘I duno, just try to be big.’ Is that still your strategy?
JR: Shootouts are such a science, really. Different things work for different people and for me, I don’t know if I even have a science to it really. Most people say I’m pretty deep in shootouts. I have my size but I can play a little deeper which takes takes away most of the net yet I’m deep enough that I can kind of go post to post and cover a guy if he dekes. I don’t know, you try and take it like a normal shot and hope that you can read him and make the save.
SD: Then you pull off your first career win and get the monkey off your back, and all of a sudden, looking at your game-by-game, you did pretty darn well. Did the pressure start to mount after that? All eyes were on James Reimer to be â€œthe saviour.â€
JR: The Leafs do a great job of educating their player through prospect camps and stuff, and it just so happens that I think I hold the all-time most prospect camps attended record. So I was pretty well-educated with the hype that surrounds the Leafs, the hype the surrounds the team and the media and all different angles from that. I guess I was kind of expecting it or I wasn’t surprised or taken back by it, maybe. I just kind of accepted that, that was just part of the game. Obviously you can do the interviews and stuff in the room, but after that I don’t read the paper. As soon as someone on TV started talking about the Leafs I’d mute it or change the channel. I wouldn’t pay attention to what they were saying about me. For the most part I can keep it out, although at the same time a thing slips through here or there and i just tried to forget about it and not think about the expectations people were putting on me or hoping that I would accomplish. I just tried to stay in my own little bubble and just try and focus on stopping pucks and not worry about what people were saying.
SD: Did any of the guys give you any crap after you gained all this notariety? I know Ben Scrivens likes to razz you.
JR: Obviously me and Scrivy joke around a lot. I remember my first practice back in Abbottsford, we were doing this drill â€“ penalty kill at one and and powerplay on the other end â€“ and it was just one of those times where surprisingly I was stopping every puck. They all started getting on my case and going, â€œOh, you’re so good! Go back to the NHL. NHL goaltender, you’re too good for us. They’re just razzing me like that, but it was all good. It was fun to be back with the guys you played with for a long time.
SD: Any of the guys ask for your autograph?
JR: There were a couple guys joking around, always bugging me for it. I was too stuck up to give it to them, you know.
SD: Can you talk about some of your influencers throughout the year? – Your family, Dallas Eakins, Francois Allaire, Ron Wilson, etc.
I wouldn’t be where I am without my family. My parents, my in-laws, my wife, obviously they are a big part of who I am and where I am today. They help me out a ton. I’ve had so many people that have influenced me.
I don’t think I would have been in the NHL as long or had the success if it wasn’t for him. He was a huge help with my technical game and making me confident in the net, which is a huge part of goaltending obviously.
He had the confidence to keep putting me back out there. I was privileged and blessed that he did that.
When Francois Allaire wasn’t there, he was there to help me out if I had any technical questions, or where I should be in a situation or what I should be doing. He helped me a ton with different rinks. He’s obviously played in a ton of rinks before and he knew certain bounces, or the fans are like this, or this guy’s shot is like that. There was so many times where he gave me pointers through the last half of the year. He was a huge reason for my success. Every time we got on the road I usually hitched a ride with him to the airport. He was a huge part of my development.
SD: This was technically after your rookie season, but you got to represent Canada at the IIHF World Hockey Championship. What was that like?
JR: It was great. Obviously I love the game and I’m a fan of it. A big fan of it. To be able to play with big names that you’ve seen or watched growing up like Spezza and Nash and playing guys like that. It was a lot of fun. It was pretty exciting to put on the same sweater they did and then play for your country. My second biggest dream was to play for team Canada. I’ve been close other times and never got the chance. To be able to put on the jersey for my country with guys that I looked up to growing up was a pretty sweet experience and something I’ll never forget, that’s for sure.