By: John Sparenberg
If Braden Holtby is going to top his outstanding rookie season of 2009-10 with the Hershey Bears, it’s going to take some changes from top-to-bottom.
Those changes will not necessarily be in his game, which was very fundamentally sound and resulted in 25 regular season wins with the Bears and included a pair of overtime wins in the playoffs, but in his equipment.
In an effort to increase scoring, the powers that be have mandated that the size of goaltender’s pads be shrunk again this season; however, those changes are not a concern for Holtby, who was still sporting his old duds at Washington’s rookie camp last week. He even still has a little room to grow in his padding.
“I won’t get the new ones until fall camp so I’m still using my old ones,” he said. “I actually have no clue if mine will even change. I don’t use the max size right now, so I doubt if I will even need to change mine-at least I hope not, but we’ll see. It seems like in the last few years we’re getting a new type of pad or size of glove or something. It’s just one of those things you have to adapt to. Everyone is on the same playing field, so it’s not that big of an issue.”
Holtby, a native of Saskatchewan, will also enter the 2011-12 with a new mask, but before he receives delivery of his new head armor, he will have to make a choice of which he will don.
“I’m actually working on two new ones right now with a new painter out of Sweden. They will be two different ones that are kind of similar. One is a Caps one and one is a Bears one. We’ll see how they turn out, and hopefully the fans will like them.”
With the rookie camp now history, Holtby is now focusing on phase two of his off-season training, and he plans to alter his approach from last season’s formula which led to such a successful rookie campaign.
“I think you have to change every year. There are different things that you feel, especially with a different schedule,” said Holtby. “You learn something different every year about what you need to work on. That’s why they have the trainers here to do research on it every year and you learn from them.”
He continued, “I’m learning a bit more of what to do on my own and what not to do. I’m learning how much I can handle and how much I can’t. It’s always a learning process in the gym and hopefully I come into the main camp in shape and we’ll go from there.”
After appearing in 37 regular season contests for the Bears, as well 13 games for the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays, Holtby started game one of the Bears playoff opening series against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers as Michal Neuvirth healed from an injury.
However, after Neuvirth was 100 percent healthy, Holtby was relegated to the bench for the final 13 games of the playoff run. That prolonged period of inactivity was a first for Holtby, who, in addition to his busy 2009-10 regular season, had averaged just under 60 appearances in his three full seasons of junior hockey.
“Coming into last season, I thought I might have to sit on the bench a little more than I was used to, but I was fortunate enough to play quite a bit in South Carolina and with injuries, I was able to play quite a few games in Hershey. It’s definitely fun to be part of the team when we’re winning and being successful like we were this last year, but it’s still not the same when you’re sitting on the bench and not playing, like I did in the playoffs.”
“Sitting for that long was something I’ve never really experienced before. I play hockey to play, not to sit on the bench and cheer. It’s definitely fuel in the fire for me to improve some things and make sure that I’m in a playing situation next year in the playoffs,” Holtby said.
A little over a month after the Bears tossed aside the Texas Stars to capture their 11th Calder Cup, the humble Holtby has not had a chance to take the Cup home to celebrate with family and friends, but instead insists that others get their day in the sun before he does.
“I don’t even know if I’m getting it,” he explained. “I haven’t heard anything yet, and I’m not too worried about it, because the summer is pretty short this year. I’d like to see the main guys who were a huge part of it get it first, and if there is time, I guess I would take it back and share it with my family and friends back home, but I would definitely make sure they got it first.”