It’s actually not such a bad deal, then, an all-expenses paid trip to a progressive European capital city like Helsinki. Heck, even if the third string goaltender on the national team does not even get to make one single appearance on the ice, itself, it is still a marvelous travel experience and a phenomenal opportunity to do a little sight-seeing on the government’s dime. Such was the case for United States emergency netminder CAL HEETER of the American Hockey League’s Adirondack Phantoms at the 2013 IIHF World Championships in Finland.
A nice little reward, then, for the rookie from Ohio State University who had himself, quite literally, an up and down season in his very first year as a professional ice hockey player. Indeed, after being assigned by the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers to their top farm club in the American Hockey League, the 24-year-old native of St. Louis shuttled back and forth between the Adirondack Phantoms and the Flyers’ affiliate in the lower-tiered East Coast Hockey League, the Trenton Titans, on no fewer than eight different occasions. Oddly enough, Heeter still had more appearances for Adirondack (32 ga, 2.92 avg, .908 svpct) in the AHL this season than any of the other Phantoms goaltenders, a group which included NHL veterans BRIAN BOUCHER (16 ga, 2.57 avg, .905 svpct) and MICHAEL LEIGHTON (2 ga, 2.02 avg, .933 svpct) as well as 31-year-old career minor leaguer SCOTT MUNROE (31 ga, 2.78 avg, .913 svpct).
Ultimately, Heeter was recalled to the NHL roster by the Philadelphia Flyers on the third of April with the Adirondack Phantoms still having nine games left to play on its 2012/13 AHL schedule and, with the newly-acquired shot-stopper STEVE MASON from the Columbus Blue Jackets in tow and Heeter occupying the role of third string goaltender, the Flyers formally closed out their abbreviated 2013 campaign on April 27th.
Altogether, from the beginning of October until the end of the NHL season in late April, the Philadelphia Flyers’ utility goaltender was on the roster of the AHL’s Adirondack Phantoms for 147 calendar days as compared to being on the Trenton Titans’ ECHL squad for only 30 calendar days; Heeter, who was never tabbed by any National Hockey League club and, accordingly, signed by Philadelphia as an undrafted free agent coming out of college, made eight appearances (3.18 avg, .900 svpct) with the Titans this season.
The date for the initial registration for the players to be competing at the annual IIHF World Championships arrived on the second of May with Heeter being one of three goaltenders named to the United States national team by head coach JOE SACCO. The inexperienced Adirondack Phantoms backstop always figured to come after NHLer BEN BISHOP of the Tampa Bay Lightning on the American depth chart. Less predictable before the tournament in Scandinavia began was what would be a sensational performance by 19-year-old JOHN GIBSON, the second round choice (# 39 overall) of the Anaheim Ducks at the 2011 National Hockey League Draft who spent this past season with the Kitchener Rangers in the Canadian junior hockey system.
Still, it is not like the unused Heeter was dragged all the way to Finland by USA Hockey and then forced to leave completely empty-handed or something …
CAL HEETER made ninety-four appearances between the pipes for Ohio State University over the course of his collegiate career, including an outdoor ice hockey contest in plunging temperatures against the eternal arch-rival University of Michigan at Progressive Field in Cleveland; as a freshman, Heeter played in five games for the successful Buckeyes side that qualified for the annual NCAA tournament for only the sixth time in school history.
BIG TEN hockey beckons … go PENN STATE!