It’s one of those feel good stories - athlete could’ve quit but didn’t. Athlete perseveres for the love of the game. Athlete beats tough odds.
That’s all a little dramatic, really, but it’s pretty damn cool: Marty Turco is back in the NHL, and playing for the defending Stanley Cup champs for the rest of the regular season.
He was, in my mind at least, as good as done. He had left Dallas, gone to Chicago to be the starter, gotten relegated to the back-up role, then relegated to be an analyst on TV. He was 35 (now 36), and most people figured “That’ll do, Marty. That’ll do.”
But for Turco, it wouldn’t.
He still had the itch and kept himself in shape, and some people still believed in him. Among those believers were those who assembled Canada’s Spengler Cup team, allowing Turco to get back into competitive action after nine months off.
Canada wasn’t around the tournament long, but still, Turco wanted to play. Including that stint, his path back to the NHL has been pretty bizarre.
Hockey players are a proud bunch, but Turco was man enough to swallow his pride and sign with EC Red Bull Salzburg of the Austrian League to get back into it. There, he got himself into 10 games, playing well during the regular season four (2.64 GAA, .934 Sv%), and not so hot during the playoff six (3.16 GAA, .911 Sv%).
Still, the message had been sent to NHL teams – he was serious about continuing his career as a goaltender, and he’d be willing to do whatever it takes to get back to the NHL. And as it should, that created more believers.
But, the odds of an NHL call were still awfully slim. After the playoffs in Austria, Turco planned a family vacation to Italy, where’d he’d unwind and likely start pondering his future.
That’s when Tukka Rask went down, and boom – suddenly Turco was signed by the Boston Bruins, and found himself on plane back to North America so he could be at the their practice the next day. IIII did not see that coming. When he cleared waivers at noon, he stepped onto the ice at 12:02 PM and stepped in front of his first of many upcoming Zdeno Chara slapshots.
I may be alone in this, but I would’ve bet mountains and mountains of money that he’d never sniff the NHL again.
It’s a lot easier to retire with all your records and money and try to stifle those competitive urges until you’re physically unable to compete than it is to put yourself out there near the end of your career, take chances, and try to play. There’s something noble about that.
I’m impressed with his commitment, and at the sheer work ethic it must have taken to keep up the necessary conditioning to be ready to play in the NHL despite a nine month break between games, and only getting between the pipes about a dozen times in nearly a year.
And for all those reasons, I’m rooting for the guy. Turco being back in the NHL is a cool story. I’m hoping he plays well enough to prove me wrong for a second time.