How the Habs back-up became a serviceable NHL goalie
It’s hard to believe that just two years ago, nobody wanted goaltender Mike Condon. At 25 years old, Condon made his NHL debut this year with the Montreal Canadiens after outplaying backup Dustin Tokarski in training camp.
With Carey Price being out for at least a week with a lower body injury, it’s Condon’s time to shine, and he’s not taking it for granted.
In his first seven games with the Habs, Condon is 6-0-1 and has a .940 save percentage. He has a goals-against average of 1.57, which is better than that of any starting goalie in the entire league. Yet two years ago, after being swept out of the first round of the playoffs with the Princeton University Tigers, Condon was working on his thesis on post-Cold War arms transfers. Having never been drafted by an NHL team, Condon was planning for a career with his political science degree rather than planning for a career in hockey.
After leaving Princeton in 2013, Condon decided to give hockey another shot and reached out to the Ontario Reign of the East Coast Hockey League in hopes of obtaining a tryout, which he did. Injuries to other goaltenders on the team allowed him to get four starts with the Reign, where he put up a 1.48 goals against average.
More injuries to goaltenders allowed him to get called up to the American Hockey League’s Houston Aeros, which is where he was first noticed by the Canadiens. In the same year, the Canadiens signed him to a two-year contract.
After having been eliminated from the 2014 playoffs, Condon received a call from the Canadiens that would change his life. They needed Condon to be their black ace after Price had sustained a season-ending injury in the conference finals against the New York Rangers. He flew to New York and was the third goaltender for the remainder of the playoffs.
The trade of Peter Budaj and the call up of Tokarski to the NHL the next season made room for Condon to have the starting position with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs for the 2014-2015 season. Impressed with his performance on their farm team, the Canadiens extended his contract until 2017.
His performance in the Canadiens 2015 training camp made general manager Marc Bergevin’s decision quite easy. Simply put, Bergevin believed that Condon “really outplayed” Tokarski, and all of his hard work and persistence finally paid off when Condon was officially given the Habs 2015-2016 back-up position.