‘I wasn’t alone out there’ – Jeremy Swayman reflects on life & legacy of late Maine coach Red Gendron

(Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

From the days of a maskless Tiny Thompson and Frank Brimsek welcoming a salvo of shots between the pipes to today's stalwarts in net like Tuukka Rask, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Carey Price, goalies have always been a quirky lot, going against the grain on most conventional forms of thinking off of their unique musings.

But you'd be hard-pressed to find even the most off-kilter netminder that was going to agree with the sentiments tossed out on Tuesday night by Bruins rookie Jeremy Swayman — a guy who prides himself on not carrying around the label of the "weird goalie."

“I love shootouts," Swayman said with a smile on his face following Boston's 3-2 win over the Sabres. "I think it’s one of the best parts of the game if we get to it."

For most netminders, the shootout is far from an enjoyable experience — with valuable points in the standings doled out by just how well they hold up as they get fed to the wolves with breakaway attempt after breakaway attempt.

Goaltenders are often on an island as the last line of defense for their club, but covering the twine as the lone man in your club's end of the ice as a skater barrels down toward you is another level of isolation — with every misstep and gamble laid bare with no support to be found aside from your teammates on the bench.

But on Tuesday, Swayman certainly felt as though he had some backup out there with him as he entrenched himself in the crease.

"It was a pretty special moment, and I know that I wasn’t alone out there, so it was pretty emotional at the end," he remarked.

Already trying to compartmentalize and navigate the daily challenges and emotions that swell as a rookie netminder suddenly pressed into NHL service, Swayman was dealt a devastating blow on Friday afternoon. Red Gendron, his coach for his three seasons up at Maine, had suddenly passed away while playing a round of golf. He was just 63 years old.

The connection forged between player and coach — especially at the collegiate level — is often very strong. But for Swayman, the bond between him and the Black Bears coaching staff has been unshakable, with the foundations built back when Gendron and his staff first began scouting the Anchorage, Alaska native back during his days in the USHL over in Nebraska and South Dakota.

For Swayman, what made the recruiting pitch from Gendron and Maine's staff stand out was that it revolved more around things off the ice than the usual spiel doled out by coaches looking for new blood to inject into the program.