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The Question of a Lifetime


MONTREAL | October 28th, 2014
The Question of a Lifetime
Reviewing game tapes of the opponent, one-on-one meetings in the coach’s office, employing visualization techniques in preparation for the “Big Game”; all normal elements of a goaltender’s pre-game repertoire. Except, of course, if that goalie is Steve Penney.   

In 1984, when Penney made the trip to Boston for Round 1 of the playoffs, there was no way for the rookie netminder to know how quickly his career was about to take flight.  With only four regular season games under his belt – all losses – Penney assumed he was in Beantown as little more than a spectator.  

 “Jacques Lemaire asked me a seemingly innocent question that ended up changing my life forever,” offered Penney.  “We were in Boston for the first game of the series.  Like any other game, Richard Sevigny, Rick Wamsley and I were all dressed for the morning skate.  Since I was just a rookie, I was really loose out there, feeling stress-free.  I knew I wasn’t going to play.”

That’s when the 23-year-old got the surprise of his life.  
“We were skating around as practice was about to start,” continued Penney. “Lemaire skated over to me, looked me in the eyes and just said: ‘You want to give it a shot tonight?’”

Penney’s reaction to his coach was a mix of both nerves and confusion.
“You’re in the NHL, and there’s so much mystique around that and there’s all this pressure everywhere.  And just like that, I’m offered the starting spot. I was a bit nervous about it, but I said yes right away!” recalled Penney.  

As it turned out, Lemaire’s investment in his rookie puckstopper paid immediate dividends.
“It worked out because we ended up sweeping the Bruins in three games (the playoffs in the 1980s followed a best-of-five format), and they were the heavy favorites that year,” explained Penney, who also knocked off the Nordiques in Round 2, adding two shutouts to his postseason totals that year.

“Right up until the next season started, I wasn’t sure if it was always going to be like that.  The next year I finally realized that there was an actual system he used to choose the starting goalie.”

Ready or not, Penney passed the test with flying colors, launching his career in the blink of an eye.