It was December of 2004 when senior Bowling Green State University goaltender Jordan Sigalet held a press conference to reveal his ongoing battle with multiple sclerosis. Amidst tremendous support from his friends, family and teammates, Sigalet had kept the disease a secret from the rest of the world while he came to terms with the diagnosis. Now, a little over a year after he made the decision to go public, Sigalet is successfully playing professional hockey.
Sigalet comes across as a soft-spoken and humble, yet highly confident young man. He is very calm and matter of fact when he speaks, almost expressionless, his gaze fixed, and there is very little evidence of the awestruck rookie one might expect. It is Sigalet’s demeanor that makes it difficult to believe that he would struggle with anything, and this poise appears to carry over to his performance on the ice.
Sigalet made the Providence Bruins roster, along with his younger brother Jonathan, right out of training camp. Though his current position is as a backup to veteran Tim Thomas, Sigalet has already seen some time in the net this season. With eight complete games in nine starts, he has a 4-3-1 record, 2.77 average and a .877 save percentage. The 24-year-old rookie was most surprised, however, when he got the call to Boston after netminder Andrew Raycroft went down with injury in late October.
“It’s been great,” said Sigalet. “To get in eight games already, it’s more than I expected. To put me in there, that they have confidence in me, it’s given me confidence, and getting called up earlier in the year, it was a pretty good experience. I got to learn a lot from Boston, from the players, even though I didn’t play, just being in practice and watching the other guys play.”
He has four successful seasons of college hockey under his belt that included a Hobey Baker Award nomination during his senior year, and a team record 1,140 saves. He was first goaltender to be named captain in Bowling Green State’s history, and concluded his college career with a .915 percentage and 2.89 GAA in 2004-05. At one time he worried whether Boston would keep him in their plans once they found out he was diagnosed with MS, and the hard-fought road to professional hockey is not something he takes for granted. The possibility that he could end up in Boston again someday is also real, but for now, Sigalet is just focused on learning the pro game.
“It’s a big jump whatever level you go to, I think,” admitted Sigalet. “Learning the little things at this level, you have to play the puck better, it just makes it easier on yourself and on your team. Having Coach Gordon being an ex-goalie, too, he’s been able to help me out with a lot of those things.”
Adjusting to the pro level is one thing, but Sigalet has also had to get used to the new equipment and the rule changes geared specifically towards goaltenders. When asked about the pressure of a shootout, he briefly cracked a smile.
“I think there’s a little more pressure on the goalie than on the forward. The forward only has to shoot once and the goalie is in there for all those shots. The way the shootout has been going lately, they’ve been going past the five shooters — we just had one that went to 12 shooters,” he said, adding, “But you don’t really think about it too much while you’re out there.”
Two months gone by since training camp and Sigalet has gotten to know his teammates and the area he lives in better. It may be a lot different from college, but he’s moving closer to his dream and enjoying life in Southern New England. No doubt having his younger brother close by makes it easier.
“It’s great,” he said about living in Providence. “It’s an adjustment. I’ve been in Ohio the last couple of years where it is pretty flat and cold and here, I like it a lot, it reminds me a lot of home in Vancouver, being back near the ocean. It’s nice to be here.”
Sigalet has a bright future, something that is only amplified by the tremendous amount of time and effort he’s taken to fight off symptoms from his MS. He has something that many young athletes don’t fully have — a strong desire to play hockey and the will to do the work it takes to not only play professionally, but to do it successfully.
Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.