Posted by: Adventures in Pucking | August 31, 2011

Man of the Day 8/31: Ondrej Pavelec

Ondřej Pavelec

Born August 31, 1987 (age 24) in Kladno, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic)

Goaltender for the Winnipeg Jets (ugh!)

Today is Pavs’ birthday, so it’s a perfect time to spotlight him! His pro career started out with two years playing on the QMJHL’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, which is a contender for best team name ever. He was drafted 41st overall by Atlanta in 2005, but that time with the Screaming Eagles served him well: he had the best GAA in the league for both years he played and a first team all-star both years too. After signing a contract with Atlanta in 2007, he spent much of 2007-08 at the AHL affiliate the Chicago Wolves. With the Wolves, he shut out the Toronto Marlies 5-0 during a May 2007 Western Conference finals game–impressive. He also helped the team take the Calder for 2007-08. 2007 was really good for Pavelec; it is also the year in which he played his first NHL games, being called down south in October 2007 after Kari Lehtonen was injured and making his first start in November 2007. His first NHL win was against Tampa Bay, also in November 2007.

With the Calder Cup as a Wolf--we'll forgive him the playoff 'stache.

 While he spent more of 2008-09 in Chicago, that script flipped in 2009-10 and 2010-11. By the time I got into hockey, he was Atlanta’s primary goaltender. Much has already been written about when he fainted on the ice during the 2010-11 opener against Washington. I have not seen the video and refuse to; I can’t bear to watch terrible injuries. (When I have to see them live, it’s not a fun time for me.) A friend who was at that game said he felt terrified and worried he’d just seen his hero die on the ice. Thankfully, of course, nothing of the sort happened. He was taken to the hospital, probably nearby Grady Memorial, and after he regained consciousness he asked about how the game was going. (Atlanta won 4-2.) He had a pretty good rest of the season, aside from a wrist injury in February and some of March, playing 58 games, posting a 21-23-9 record, 4 shutouts (career-high), a 2.73 GAA and a .914 save percentage. He also went over to Slovakia and represented the Czech Republic in the Worlds, serving as their primary and turning in two shutouts among other great performances, leading CZR to the bronze. In the past he has worn Czech’s uniform for the 2010 Worlds (gold), 2006 World Juniors and the 2010 Olympics.

He even got Player of the Game for his shutout against Team USA in the 2011 Worlds. It caused me to question for whom I should cheer as an American!

 To get personal for a moment: Pavs taught me to love hockey. Well, he and the rest of the Thrashers but especially him. The first hockey game I ever saw was January 26, 2011, versus the Capitals. I’ll never forget it. It was a shutout. 1-0. He stopped every single shot he faced from a team that is pretty darn good. From there I just had to learn more about him, so I did. The more I learned about him, the more I truly came to admire him. He’s so talented and brilliant between the pipes. I own his shersey for a reason. My biggest regret is not talking to him at the practice my friend Amanda and I went to, but I thought there would be more practices in the fall for me to attend with this more flexible post-grad schedule of mine. He was just there and gone in a matter of seconds and all I could do was watch in awe. It’ll be hard for me to keep following him the same once he’s wearing that different sweater, but I did put him on my fantasy team.

Děkuji, Ondrej. Thank you for teaching me how to love this sport.

-Emma


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