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COACHES and scouts will often search for years to find a telling, insightful moment that defines value and reveals true character in a player.

In the case of Manitoba Moose goalie Wade Flaherty, such points are never hard to find.

Opening night of the current Moose season was surely one. Summoned from the bench to take the Manitoba net in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and with the home team ahead 3-2, Flaherty shut down the Penguins for the final 39 minutes and the Moose powered back for a 6-3 win.

Another occurred yesterday at River Heights Community Centre. Early during practice, Flaherty took a puck off the noggin but went about his business and barely gave second-year defenceman Kirill Koltsov, the shooter, a disgusted look.

"He comes in with a great attitude every day and he's definitely a professional," Moose captain Nolan Baumgartner said about Flaherty. "He shows the young guys his great work ethic on the ice and he challenges you to score on him in practice. I think that makes us a better team."

Baumgartner acknowledged that opening night was an important springboard for the Moose.

"Especially in a first game like that, where you're in a building where the fans are crazy and it's loud and he came in and made big stops and yeah, we took off and it showed the leadership that he has," the captain said.

After 18 games, the 36-year-old goalie has already proven his worth to the Moose both on and off the ice. He's 7-3-1 with a save percentage of .926 and his fit on a revamped Vancouver Canucks development team couldn't have been better.

"A player that's played that number of years, he's seen and been through a lot of different experiences and situations," said Moose coach Randy Carlyle. "Probably he was at one point the 'prospect' so he understands how this business works in the AHL as far as development (goes).

"He probably wasn't the same when he was 20 years old as he is now, so he has a better understanding of what makes the game work in all situations."

The coach was asked if the Moose are fortunate to have an extra veteran -- goalies don't count in the maximum six allowed in any game -- on their roster.

"I'm sure everybody tries to fill their roster with one need in mind depending on where the organization's depth is from the NHL perspective," Carlyle said. "With Alex (Auld) and Wade, it's 20 years of goaltending experience on our roster and it's a bonus from our perspective."

Flaherty said his move to the Moose has been a good one so far.

"It's been relatively easy," Flaherty said. "I knew coming here if there wasn't a lockout that it would be Auldy and me here. We have a good relationship and it's been a lot of fun."

Another of Flaherty's defining moments came last spring when the Terrace, B.C., native won 16 games during the Calder Cup title run by the Milwaukee Admirals.

On Saturday and Sunday at MTS Centre, he gets to face another group of former teammates -- he's lost track of how many times in his pro career he's done that -- and experience tells him it's always fun.

"It's fun to play against those guys," he smiled. "There are lots of good memories coming from Milwaukee, but Manitoba's the team I'm with now and that's my direction.

"I know guys and have made good friendships there and when you play against them, it's bragging rights. You're going to hear about it."

Goaltender Wade Flaherty has been fishing long enough to know that you don’t rock the boat if you don’t want to make waves.

He has navigated between being a workhorse and a backup throughout a 13-year professional career that has seen him drop anchor in NHL stops such as San Jose, New York, Tampa Bay and Florida.

Flaherty played consecutive 60-plus game seasons in the IHL with the Kansas City Blades before being teamed with such notable NHL netminders as Tommy Salo, Felix Potvin and Arturs Irbe. There have been times when he sat the bench long enough to feel like paint.

“It’s just the way it goes,” he says. “I’m not going to bang my head against the wall and yell and scream about it. I’m not one to knock on the door and ask the coach why I’m not playing.”

Talk to Flaherty for a few minutes and you will be convinced that there isn’t a more good-natured goaltender out there. Of course, he’s doesn’t buy the idea that goalies don’t have both oars in the water. “Goaltenders are the normal ones,” he says, smiling. “Everyone else are the weirdos.”

His easy-going personality might be traced to having grown up in northern British Columbia, an area where ice hockey and king salmon ruled, a peaceful place where tranquil ponds offered a respite from the day’s troubles.

“You’d come home from school and put on the skates and mom would have to drag you into the house for dinner,” Flaherty says. “You never took your skates off because you ate dinner really quick and you’d be right back out the door until it was dark.

“My dad always built a little rink out in the backyard for us and we had the floodlights going until it was bedtime. Sometimes we’d even try to get out and skate in the morning before school.”

Flaherty had two older brothers, Mark and Brent, who were more than happy to make him target practice. “When I was younger, I couldn’t skate very well, so I’d stand in goal with the pads and they’d shoot soft pucks at me.”

The pucks got harder over the years, but Flaherty got better at stopping them. He was good enough to get drafted in the ninth round of the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, but had to spend three years in the IHL proving himself.

He was the No. 1 guy in Kansas City, but much of his time in the NHL has been as a backup. “I think I can handle both situations well,” he says. “Obviously you want to play every game, but the coach makes the decisions and you live with them.”

Even so, there’s no hesitation about Flaherty’s preference.

“Being the workhorse is easier,” he says. “When you’re playing every night, you get into a rhythm and everything comes naturally. You know you have the confidence of the coaches. If you let in a bad one, you know they’re not going to second guess you.”

As a backup, it’s a different story. “If you’re only playing once out of every three or four games and all of a sudden you let in a soft one, you’re thinking ‘Oh boy, here we go.’ It’s harder in practice too. You have to really concentrate. You try to turn everything into a game situation.”

Rocker Tom Petty isn’t a goaltender, but he knew something when he sang “the waiting is the hardest part.” There are few worse things for a netminder than feeling rusty.

“As a backup, you never know when you’re going to play,” Flaherty says. “I’ve been there, so I feel for guys in that position. Not only do you have to keep yourself mentally prepared, but you’ve got to do extra work to keep yourself in game shape. So you do the workouts, you ride the bike.”

During games on the bench, Flaherty keeps his mind sharp by studying shooters.

“I watch the power play where a lot of things just develop. You see a guy’s natural instincts. You make mental notes. You study the stats. A guy with a lot of assists is probably going to pass more than shoot.” His research has helped hone his goaltending style. You might say Flaherty is an “angler.”

“I try to work on my angles and take away as much of the net as I can,” he says. “I try to put myself in a position to make every save. I try to stay back. I try not to overchallenge. If they’re going to score, they have to come to you eventually.”

In other words, it’s all about patience. Flaherty contends one of the NHL’s best in that department is Phoenix goatender Sean Burke. “He used to be more aggressive, but now he stays right in his crease. He’s there for everything.”

Fishing has taught Flaherty more than a little about patience. Every summer he spends some time fishing back home, heading out into the Pacific Ocean inside the Queen Charlotte Islands near Prince Rupert.

“I take the time to go fishing a week here, a week there, but other than that, I’m in the gym -- especially at my age,” says Flaherty, 34. “The game has changed to the point where it’s a 12-month job.”

Speaking of jobs, Flaherty is still uncertain about his plans after his playing days are over. He still has another year on his contract with the Florida Panthers and he would like to continue playing as long as he can.

One thing’s for certain, he has no plans on becoming a fishing guide.

“When I was younger, I thought it would be fun to be a guide,” Flaherty says. “But I enjoy fishing too much now. I have enough pressure playing hockey. I don’t want to have to take out paying customers and think I have to catch them fish.

” Fishing is even more special to Flaherty now that he and his wife Carmie have a family. He jokes that his kids -- daughter Jordyn, 4, and 18-month-old son, Gavin -- have cut into his fishing time, but he can’t hide his true feelings.

“I think it’s the greatest thing in the world,” he says. “I think being a father is fantastic.”

He’s already taken his daughter fishing -- “She even caught her first fish: a little trout,” he says -- and it won’t be more than a couple of years before he’s lacing up skates for his son. And teaching him how to reel in the opposition and stop the shooter cold -- hook, line and sinker.

Sometimes Flaherty wonders whether he isn’t luckier at fishing than he is at hockey.

Flaherty, who has landed a 60-pound king salmon, has endured his share of injuries in recent years, the kind that have probably prevented him from becoming a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.

He was battling Irbe for playing time in San Jose when he took a shot off his shoulder in practice and cracked his collarbone. He was poised for a pivotal year with the New York Islanders when he blew out his shoulder, again in practice.

“Injuries are part of the game, but it’s frustrating when they’re long term,” he says. “A little groin strain that keeps you out for a couple of days is no big deal, but it’s frustrating when it’s longer.”

Flaherty pulled a back muscle earlier this season, then missed 10 games with a groin injury. Even so, he has had a solid year with Utah, ranking among the AHL leaders in wins, goals against average and save percentage.

“For a goaltender to be successful, he has to have success out in front of him,” says Flaherty, who modestly points out that hockey is a team game. “There are nights when a goalie steals a game, but I don’t think a goalie can do that night after night.”

Flaherty proved his mettle in the first round of the 1995 Stanley Cup playoffs when he faced 60 shots in game seven, making 56 saves in a double-overtime win against Calgary. Of course, there have been other nights that he would rather forget.

“Sometimes you feel like you’re fighting the puck,” he says. “You don’t feel good, but you’ve got to fight that feeling. You’ve got to reverse those ideas in your brain.”

He remains hopeful that his strong play this season will earn him another nibble at the NHL. “Everyone wants to play in the National Hockey League and I’m no different,” he says. “You keep doing what you do and try to get yourself back there.”

WEST JORDAN -- Wade Flaherty's ambitions began during the flood of 1975,
when his father, Ray, hosed down the backyard for what seemed like 40 days and
40 nights, and the frigid onset of another British Columbia winter cubed the
acreage into an ice sheet suitable for the drop of a Canadian boy's dream.
    Ray Flaherty was a logger in Terrace, a small, wooded town some three hours
south of the Alaskan panhandle along B.C.'s coast, and a hero to his three sons
and enough neighborhood kids to fill a few junior hockey squads. Every day, the
boys came and played on the Flahertys' frozen tundra, scooting back into their
houses for dinner, skates still tied, then returning for more of Gordie Howe's
game, playing deep into the night under banks of jerry-built flood lights.
    Wade was 6. His brothers, Mark and Brent, 11 and 12. His good friend, Jeff,
and so many other stick-handling buds, 7.
    The chronology of birth meant one important thing: Wade had to play in net.
    "Everyone was older than I was, so they made me play goalie," Flaherty
says. "They skated and shot pucks at me. Over and over. I stood in front of the
    And got pelted.
    "That's the way he tells the story, but Wade really liked [playing] the
goal," says Jeff Sharples, Utah Grizzlies defenseman and Flaherty's boyhood
friend. "He was younger than the rest of us, but he was good."
    Twenty-three years later, he still is good. One of the best goaltenders to
play in the IHL this season, a key to the Grizzlies' early run, allowing just
1.79 goals per game. "Point is, he stops the puck," says Grizz Coach Butch
Goring. "He could be the MVP of the league this year."
    Then again, he may not even be in the league.
    Flaherty's aspirations lie elsewhere. When he and his brothers and friends
faced off in the backyard, they wore only the imaginary sweaters of NHL teams.
Same thing when Flaherty played on top-caliber youth teams that won age-group
championships in British Columbia and went on to play at varying Canadian
    "The National Hockey League," he says. "That was my -- and everybody
else's -- dream."
    And delusion.
    In pursuit, he abandoned normal life, dropping out of high school and
leaving home at 17 to play with a "major" junior league team in Seattle. That
initiated a circuitous odyssey that remains inconclusive even now. He eventually
was "traded" to Spokane and then to Victoria. He was never a star goalie in
juniors, but was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres when he was 19.
    "You have to mature as a goaltender," says Flaherty. "It's a different
kind of position. It's total pressure. You're either the hero or the goat. It's
not easy. Mentally or physically. You have to learn, develop, grow."
    After going to camp with Buffalo in fall, 1988, Flaherty returned for
another year of junior hockey in Victoria. Later, he signed with the old
Minnesota North Stars and was assigned to Kalamazoo of the IHL. He bounced
between Kalamazoo and Greensboro of the East Coast League before signing another
minor-league deal with the IHL's Kansas City club. From '91 through the end of
last season, Flaherty ricocheted like a deflected slapshot from KC to San Jose
to various bush-league organizations. But he spent the entirety of two seasons
with the NHL's Sharks from '94-'96, playing infrequently -- all told, he
compiled a 10-26-2 record -- before a brisk shot broke his collarbone at the
start of San Jose's training camp in September 1996.
    Surgically-inserted screws, a plate and four months of rehab helped heal the
fracture. Flaherty spent last season ping-ponging between San Jose and its
minor-league affiliate in Kentucky. When he was not re-signed during the
offseason, the New York Islanders inked him to a two-year deal and promptly sent
him to their affiliate, the Utah Grizz.
    Here, he has shined, in 24 games going 16-5-3 and ranking at the top of the
IHL goals-against list.
    "I feel that I'm fully developed as a goaltender," says Flaherty, 29. "It
becomes a matter of how much you play, what kind of opportunities you get. I'm
at my best when I get a chance to play. It's tough because I want to be in the
NHL, but whenever I'm called up, I don't get to play. So, I have to wait. But
now is the time. The opportunity has to come soon. Then again, I have no control
over those decisions."
    Good Disposition: Flaherty was called up by the Islanders for seven games in
December. He did not play a minute.
    "Let's not kid ourselves," says Goring, "Wade's not a youngster anymore,
but he has a chance. He's done all he can in the IHL. I think he can play in the
    But will he?
    Or will all those ambitions spawned atop the flooded ice sheet so many years
ago -- Flaherty's wife, Carmie, says her husband has relocated more than 20
times over the past decade in a career defined, more than anything, by its
nomadism -- vaporize on the doorstep of the Canadian boy's dream?
    "A lot of guys couldn't have handled this," says Carmie, who gave birth
last month to the couple's first child, a daughter named Jordyn. "But he's
relaxed. He takes everything in stride."
    Including the aforementioned delivery, which, in some ways, epitomizes
Flaherty's career.
    Here's what took place: After playing well for the Grizz, the goalie was
called up by the Islanders on Dec. 2. He met the team in Charlotte, then
accompanied it to New York. On the 4th, Carmie went into labor in Salt Lake
City, so he immediately flew back to Utah. On an in-flight phone call somewhere
over the Rockies, a family friend tending to Carmie at St. Marks Hospital told
Flaherty, "Don't stop over for a beer on your way in." At precisely 11:50
p.m., the travelin' man walked into the delivery room. At 12:10 a.m., his
daughter was born.
    "Man, it was something," he says. "It was like getting thrown into a game
with two minutes left in the third period."
    The next day, he was on a flight back to New York for the Islanders' game
that night. He arrived, but did not play. He was sent back down to the Grizz two
weeks later, completely unfulfilled.
    Sharples, who picked up Flaherty at the airport and rushed him to the
hospital on the night of the big event, says the man and the goaltender are the
same: "laidback."
    "Being that way, so relaxed, helps Wade as a goalie. If things don't go
right, or if he has a bad night, it doesn't affect him. He's even-keeled, under
    Stll Fun: Last Thursday, the day after a sterling performance in goal at the
E Center, a 2-1 Grizz win over Orlando, Flaherty, holding his new baby in his
arms at home in West Jordan, paused to consider the trying and transient nature
of his career: "I've bounced around a bit, but I'm happy. I want to be in the
National Hockey League, but I'm happy here. I'm focusing on winning with the
Grizzlies. I'll do the best I can. If the opportunity finally comes, then I'll
focus on it. It's been my dream. But even if I don't ever stay and play in the
NHL, I'm happy to have played the game I grew up playing. It's been worth it.
It's still fun."
    A few hours after speaking those words, early Friday morning, Wade Flaherty
was called up by the New York Islanders. He played -- and played decently -- in
Saturday's 2-1 overtime loss against Carolina and was scheduled to start Monday
night against Detroit. No matter. Indications from the big club are that the
goalie could be shipped back to Utah soon.
    As it is, for now, the imaginary sweater he wore on his dad's backyard rink
has been pulled on, once again. No telling when, or if, it will ever truly fit.

HIS equipment is smaller, but Manitoba Moose goaltender Wade Flaherty's heart is bigger than ever.

Flaherty, a 16-year professional hockey veteran, occupies the distinguished position of incumbent netminder in the AHL team's 2005 training camp and is savouring every moment.

"I'll never forget the way the city and the province took to us last year during our playoff run. We were having such great success, everyone took us and embraced us," Flaherty, 37, said after yesterday's scrimmage at River Heights Arena. "It was such an awesome experience. You just look forward to getting this season started and having that same kind of success again this year."

Last season, the Moose won the North Division but lost to Chicago Wolves in the Western Conference final and played later (May 26) than any other Moose team in club history. Flaherty led the way with a stellar playoff performance. In 12 games, he posted eight wins with a 2.42 goals against average.

Moose head coach Alain Vigneault, running training camp for the first time as the new bench boss, said the role of a veteran netminder can never be overstated.

"Goaltending is probably the most important position in the game," Vigneault said. "Having Wade here as a veteran, knowing what the game is about and pressure situations, is certainly going to help our guys out as far as understanding the demands of being a professional hockey player. Even though he's getting up there in age, he's still able to perform at a very good level, so hopefully he can bring that to the table." Flaherty, who makes his home in the Vancouver area with his wife, seven-year-old daughter and five-year-old son, will be part of a yet-to-be-named goaltending tandem for the Moose. Alex Auld and Brent Johnson are still in the parent club Vancouver Canucks' National Hockey League training camp and the Moose are still taking a look at netminders Chris Houle and Robert McVicar, a former member of the Western Hockey League's Brandon Wheat Kings.

"This is a different situation for us in goal," Vigneault said. "Last year it was him and Alex Auld, a younger guy who Vancouver wants to bring up and develop. This year, I don't know who we're going to have, whether it's Alex or Johnson with Wade. All those guys, I consider veteran goaltenders. Basically, what we're going to have is good internal competition in goal."

The season will also be a return to comfort for Flaherty in the equipment department as he said he was one of the longer holdouts to wearing larger goalie equipment, but had finally succumbed a few years ago. With the recently-adopted new NHL rules, all goaltender equipment has been reduced by 11 per cent.

"The equipment is smaller so it's going to be lighter. Are you any quicker? Probably not, you just adjust. Is it in your head? If you think you're faster, maybe you are. That's kind of the way goalies think!" Flaherty said, laughing.

Improving with age
Moose veteran honoured by AHL all-star selection

The American Hockey League is considered a prospect league -- a place where young players cut their teeth before moving up to the next level.

Its all-star game is usually a showcase for recent high draft picks and its best young talent.

When you consider those points, it makes one wonder how it felt to be Wade Flaherty yesterday after the Manitoba Moose veteran was selected as the starting goaltender for the Canadian side in the 2006 AHL All-Star Classic at the MTS Centre Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.




"There was a couple years ago when I was in Milwaukee where I thought I had an opportunity to go (to the game)," the 38-year-old prospect said. "My numbers were actually better back then, too.

"It's an honour to be a part of it, but at the same time, I'm a bit surprised, as well."

The netminder has previously skated in two all-star games back in the IHL days as a member of the Kansas City Blades in 1993 and 1994.

Flaherty, who will get the start today and tomorrow (7:30 p.m.) against the Philadelphia Phantoms at the MTS Centre, joins Moose winger Jimmy Roy on the Canadian side. Those two will square off against defenceman Sven Butenschon, who will be starting on the PlanetUSA team.

Prospect or not, the 17-year veteran has put up some impressive numbers this season. Forget the 13-10-2 record, the 2.39 GAA and the .920 save percentage -- Flaherty has five shutouts on the season.

That's tops in the AHL.

Too old? Try too good.

"He's played some good hockey for us and I'm sure it's going to get better," Moose coach Alain Vigneault said. "We're right on pace for our plan with him here. He's played 26 games, and we're going to challenge him a little bit more to get him ready for the second half.

"As good as he's been, I know he's going to do more."


Much has been made about Flaherty and his plight with his contract status, the waiver wire, and the Vancouver Canucks this winter. His invite to the all-star game is just another reason to shake your head at the whole mess, as he's earned the right to go up and the Canucks won't chance losing him on the waivers.

Yet here we are, with Flaherty still going about his business as one of the top goalies in the AHL this season.

Amazingly, it hasn't affected him. Instead, he's just looking to keep winning to put himself in a good situation for next season.

"I can't control what (the Canucks) do," he said. "As our team goes further, am I improving my opportunity for a contract for next year? I'm looking at this year to have as much success as possible.

"I start to look around the room now, with our player movements, we got (Jason King) back, (Josh Green) is healthy, Lee Goren ...

"We're putting together some pretty big pieces of the team here."

Flaherty gets start for stars
Moose goalie No. 1 for Canada, but not Canucks

by Gary Lawless, Winnipeg Free Press

OUT of his pads and mask, Wade Flaherty, with a touch of grey in his hair and abs we're unable to describe as a six-pack, looks out of place in an AHL dressing room let alone one for an all-star game.

But put Flaherty in his equipment and this everyman gives hope to all with brilliant goaltending and he was recognized yesterday as an AHL all-star.

Flaherty will start in goal for the Canadian All-Star team at the 2006 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic to be held Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 at MTS Centre.

"I turned 38 a little while ago and that makes this selection a bit of a surprise in a game that is usually made up of just prospects," said Flaherty. "A couple of years ago in Milwaukee I was named the playoff MVP and I was a little surprised when that happened. That year my numbers were better than they are now and there was no talk about being an all-star. But it's an honour and it'll be great to take part."

Flaherty will be joined by teammates Jimmy Roy and Sven Butenschon on all-star weekend as Roy was selected playing captain by AHL president Dave Andrews and Butenschon, born in Germany, was selected to play for Team PlanetUSA on Wednesday. Flaherty, who played in two all-star games ('93, '94) while a member of the Kansas City Blades in the old IHL, is 13-10-2 and leads the AHL with five shutouts. The Terrace, B.C. native has a 2.39 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage.

"Any time a goaltender gets an award like this a lot of it has to do with the team and my teammates have done a great job in front of me this season."

Flaherty, Roy and Butenschon had a little fun at each other's expense yesterday.

Flaherty was asked if he would be willing to put in some time with Butenschon to prepare for the skills competition, but the veteran goalie looked across the room at Roy and fired a dart.

"I don't know about Boots but I think Jimmy could use a little help. Maybe I'll go over some drills with him," said Flaherty.

Butenschon, known for his big shot, says Flaherty won't like seeing him in a different uniform.

"He knows about my shot. I know he's not sleeping at night. He's a little nervous," ribbed Butenschon within earshot of his goalie.

"Bring it on," drily replied Flaherty, who after 17 seasons as a pro between the ECHL, IHL, AHL and NHL has seen just about everything this game has to offer.

No doubt news of Flaherty's all-star selection will be grist for the mill in Vancouver where the Canucks have had goaltending difficulties all season. With No. 1 man Dan Cloutier out until April with a knee injury and Alex Auld struggling a bit under the unexpected weight of the top job with an NHL contender, the argument could be made Flaherty is the top goalie in the organization. Better suited

Certainly he's better suited to help Auld in Vancouver than either Maxime Ouellet or Rob McVicar, the two goalies the Canucks have used to back up Auld this season, but Flaherty remains in Manitoba.

The veteran of 120 NHL games is subject to recall waivers due to his AHL salary which exceeds $75,000 US. While the Canucks would love to give Flaherty a look they view the risk of losing him on waivers to be too great and as such have not made the move.

"It doesn't look like it's going to happen," said Flaherty. "I have to move on and focus on playing here. Look around this room, the pieces are here to have some success. Lee Goren, Josh Green and Jason King are all back here and getting healthy. We've go the ingredients for some success here."

Tyler Bouck was re-assigned to the Moose yesterday to finish the remainder of a 14-day conditioning assignment. The Moose now have seven veterans in camp and due to AHL rules will only be able to dress five in tonight's game meaning a pair will have to sit out. The Moose host the Philadelphia Phantoms tonight and tomorrow at MTS Centre (7:30 p.m., CJOB).