Patience is a virtue, and maybe that would be a fair mantra for backup goaltenders everywhere. Take for instance Glenn Fisher.
The Oilers selected Fisher in the fifth round of the 2002 Entry Draft right out of Alberta tier II junior. The Edmonton born goaltender was about to enter his final season with the Fort Saskatchewan Traders that year, prior to going south of the border to the University of Denver.
Now as a member of the Denver Pioneers in one of the toughest college conferences in the NCAA, Fisher is living the life of a back up goaltender, applying that proverb to his freshman year.
“The basic situation with Denver is that they have a senior goaltender, and it’s the same with every college team in that they ride their seniors,” explained Oiler VP of Hockey Operations Kevin Prendergast. “Their thought process was that if they got off to a bad start and they really stumbled then they were going to get Glenn in and use their younger players more but if they got off to a good start then they would slowly bring him in.”
“They got off to a good start.”
In fact Denver had a terrific year and when the regular season ended, the Pioneers were the fifth ranked team in the nation. Unfortunately for Fisher, that meant very limited appearances but lots of practice.
“The coaches are happy with him in practice and the games he’s been in, he’s played quite well,” Prendergast added with some satisfaction. “We knew the situation going in there and I think Glenn understood it well too.”
Next year the path will be clear for Fisher to step up and claim the starting position outright and the Oilers believe it’s his job to lose.
“He’s got three years after this year to take over that number one spot and we fully anticipate him being the number one goalie there next season,“ concluded Prendergast.
Oiler scout Bob Mancini is extremely high on Fisher and thinks the potential of the Edmonton product will be worth the wait.
“To me, when we were at the table and we took him, that was great value in the fifth round,” smiled Mancini. “He’s going to be the heir apparent in Denver and in two years everyone is going to realize what we knew because I think he’s going to be a heck of a goaltender with a bright future.”
Hockey’s Future caught up with Glenn Fisher at the conclusion of Denver’s regular season and just prior to the conference playoffs.
HF: You were born in Edmonton but played junior hockey in Fort Saskatchewan. Where did you play your minor hockey?
GF: I played on the South Side of Edmonton for my second year in Bantam and then I played on the North Side of Edmonton.
HF: Was that for the South Side athletic club and then who on the north end?
GF: Yeah, I played one year for the SSAC and then for the Edmonton Maple Leafs athletic club on the north side.
HF: You were a fifth round pick by your hometown team, did that come as a surprise to you at all?
GF: I was told that I was going to be drafted from my family advisor anywhere from the fourth round to not at all, but I was really surprised to go in the fifth round. My dad’s had season tickets since their first year in the NHL.
HF: What was the prospect camp experience like for you last June?
GF: After being at the main camp, it was nice going to the prospect camp with just two goalies and I got to work a lot with Pete Peeters. Getting to meet all the guys, most of whom were college guys, it was nice to play with the type pf players I would be playing against this year.
HF: Did you find yourself hanging out with any of the other guys in particular?
GF: I hung out a lot with Jake Brenk who plays for Mankato right now.
HF: For the others it was the first time for many of them in Edmonton, did you play the host?
GF: I kind of did. I took a few of the guys to West Edmonton Mall because they wanted to see it and do some shopping. The last night we all went out together too. We went to an Edmonton Eskimos (CFL) game in the VIP section and everything. Everyone got introduced but I missed that part though and I showed up afterwards.
HF: You mentioned the main camp, which would have been in the fall of 2002 not 2003. Was it a bit overwhelming for you?
GF: It was a little at first. Walking into the room and seeing all those guys that I’d been watching and just a year before that I wouldn’t have ever thought I’d be in that situation. After the first shot though I was pretty comfortable out there.
HF: Now you’re playing for Denver, a really good team ranked No. 5 or 6 depending on which poll you look at. As a freshman, do you stick to the background and take it all in or what is your role?
GF: I’ve started five games but I’ve played in eight or nine. At the beginning of the year the coaches told me that it was there for the taking, basically the things coaches tell you so you don’t just sit back when you’re in that position. It’s been hard at times because even if I play well they’re going to go back with Adam (Berkhoel) because he’s one of the top goalies in the NCAA right now. It’s tough but at the same time it’s good because you learn a lot from him.
HF: You actually are on the stat sheet this year with an assist.
GF: (laughs) It was against Niagara after I had missed three weeks with a sprained ankle. The other team had a power play and I made a save and I just pushed it out towards our guy and he skated down and scored.
HF: You’re listed at the start of the year as 6’1” and 170 lbs. how accurate is that now?
GF: About the same right now.
HF: There are a few Albertans and many Canadians on your team in Denver. Does that make for some fun intersquad rivalries especially around World Junior time?
GF: I played against Jeff Drummond since I was pretty young and I played against him a bit when I was 17 in the AJHL. Overall on the team we still have our rivalries because we’ll often play Can-Am games. There are a few more Americans now then there was a year ago but there can be some pretty heated battles when we play those games. A lot of Canadians on our team were still cheering for Team Canada but at the same time it was nice to see a lot of college athletes doing well for the Americans.
HF: Is it tough staying intense as the back up?
GF: A little bit but it’s not that tough because you’re only playing two games a week so it’s not as tough as if you were a back up in a 64 game schedule which is what it was in the AJHL. You’re always ready to go in but I haven’t had to do that too much this year.
HF: What are you studying?
GF: I haven’t declared a major yet but I’m looking towards finance.
HF: Is it tough balancing the academics and the hockey at the same time?
GF: It’s a lot of work because you don’t have a lot of free time. Our school is on a trimester so we have a month break from mid November to the end of December so that’s a nice break. We go until the end of June though unlike other schools that finish in May.
HF: How does life in Denver compare to Edmonton?
GF: The weather’s a lot nicer! People were wearing shorts and getting sunburns yesterday (early March) and you wouldn’t get that at home this time of year. It’s a nice city; they have an NFL football team, which is the big thing.
HF: Have you gone to see the Avalanche play?
GF: I’ve been to about five or six games this year.
HF: What would be a successful season for you on a personal level?
GF: This year, just to keep my schooling up and hope that the team goes far into the playoffs and gets a championship.
HF: Do you consider next year as your year?
GF: That’s what I’m looking forward too.
HF: The conference playoffs start this weekend.
GF: Yeah, we’re playing Colorado College again. We just played them last weekend too. It was a pretty ugly weekend because of the Gold Pan, which our team hasn’t had since 1998 I think. Whoever wins the season series gets to claim the Gold Pan and we did so it was a big weekend for us, especially considering we’re playing them again this weekend.
HF: Is the Gold Pan some sort of actual trophy?
GF: (laughs) It’s like a old prospector’s pan and it’s just between Denver and Colorado College every year, I’m not sure how long it’s been running for but it’s just a really big rivalry. We’re about 45 minutes away from each other so we get home crowds at both rinks. Friday night we played there and won again, both our games there this year, and Saturday night was a long game with a lot of scrums and cheap shots from both sides.
HF: Unlike in Canada, there’s no fighting in NCAA hockey though.
GF: No, not at all. You’d get suspended but on top of that, you have to wear a full cage so it’s pretty tough for the players to go at it.
Colorado and Denver went at it in the opening round of the WCHA conference playoffs and the Pioneers were upset by their archrivals in two games straight. There is still the possibility that Denver will get into the final NCAA tournament but like the other top ranked teams already on the outside, Boston College and Wisconsin, they will have to wait until this weekend to find out for certain.
Comment on this interview at the Oilers section of the Hockey’s Future Message Boards.