Grubauer will fuel pressure at the Kraken
“These players were his idols,” said Peter Grubauer.
Philipp was then as tall as three apples.
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“It was always my goal growing up,” said Philipp grubauer. “I watched several videos of their best moments and wanted to be like them. «
Twenty-five years later, the kid is now 6-1 / 1, 188 pounds, and he’s a keeper whose impact could one day match that of his idols. He is preparing to become one of the faces of the most recent NHL team.
After being a finalist for the Vézina Trophy as the best goalie in the NHL last season, Grubauer decided to leave the Colorado Avalanche and sign a six-year contract worth 35.4 million with the Seattle Kraken on July 28.
It was a bold and surprising move for a goaltender who could have simply stayed with a Stanley Cup contender rather than choosing a different avenue.
“When the free agent market opened up, Seattle called, and it was an easy decision for me to join a whole new team and make history like the Vegas Golden Knights did by becoming one of the first players to get along with this team, ”explained Grubauer, after signing his contract.
He will be the Kraken’s number one keeper, the player the pressure is on, perhaps the most important one for the new franchise. This is what he wanted when he was younger, even though in his early years in North America he barely spoke English. His goal remained the same when he was auxiliary to the Washington Capitals and starting with the Avalanche.
“You have to prove yourself,” he said during the Stanley Cup playoffs, before the Avalanche lost to the Golden Knights in six games in the second round. « Nothing is going to be given to you. You have to prove yourself every night. You are as good as the last game you played. «
It has always been his mentality. From when he was just a young child admiring the best goalies in hockey history until today. Grubauer dreamed big in his hometown of Rosenheim, in the region of Bavaria in Germany, not far from the Austrian border.
“Philipp reproduced the movements of the guards he saw on the videos. He was 3 or 4 years old, Peter recalled. It was funny to see. And years later, to see your son in the NHL, it’s amazing. «
Now it’s Grubauer’s turn to be the star of these videos, the idol of other young people everywhere.
“Philipp is a role model in our team,” said Siegfried Harrer, Rosenheim Star Bulls goaltender coach. “For me as a coach it’s very important because I like to take Philipp as an example when it comes to showing young people what they can achieve. I also like showing videos of him in training. »
Grubauer was seen as a key part of Colorado’s success when he was acquired in a deal with Washington, along with defenseman Brooks Orpik and a second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft on June 22, 2018.
At that point, the Avalanche were a dynamic team attacking, but their goalkeeper, Semyon Varlamov, had dealt with injuries in the previous two seasons.
After sharing the task in goal in his first two campaigns in Colorado – first with Varlamov in 2018-19, then with Pavel Francouz in 2019-20 – Grubauer became the man for the job last season. He maintained a 30-9-1 record with a 1.95 goals-against average (minimum 25 games). He also finished tied with Varlamov for first in shutouts (7) and sixth in save percentage (.922).
Colorado, however, never achieved its playoff goals with Grubauer, losing in the second round in each of its three seasons. In July, Grubauer chose Seattle after he and the Avalanche were unable to come to an agreement on a new contract.
« It’s great to be a part of something new, to make history playing the very first game of a team and to try to do what Vegas did, » said Grubauer after coming to an agreement with him. the Kraken. » It is the objective. «
The goal is to imitate Vegas. To do like Marc-André Fleury, the goaltender who beat Grubauer in the Vézina Trophy race three years after leading the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, ultimately losing to the Capitals in five parts.
Video: VGK @ COL, # 2: Grubauer steals Tuch with the mitten
Grubauer was the auxiliary of Braden Holtby in Washington that season, and he got to see up close what could be his own future. A future and a pressure for which he has been preparing all his life.
“He’s very, very focused,” said his mother, Susi. “He’s very calm. «
And that’s one of the reasons the Kraken wanted it.
“He’s got a good head on his shoulders, a good mentality,” said Devan Dubnyk, who served as an assistant to Grubauer last season after being acquired in a trade with the San Jose Sharks on April 10. “He has exactly the personality you are looking for in a player who is going to jump on the ice every night for your team. He doesn’t let himself down, no matter the situation.
“I like that he has several strengths so he can make stunt stops if needed, but he can also be extremely calm and technical. I was very impressed watching him go on the ice, but also getting to know him personally. «
This mentality, this calmness and this ability to be ready in the most important moments is nothing new.
Rosenheim Star Bulls administrative director Ingo Dieckmann remembers Grubauer during a game in Kaufbeuren in the 2007-08 season, when he was 16 years old.
“Our usual goalkeeper hadn’t done very well, so the coach had indicated in the locker room that Philipp was going to play that day,” recalls Dieckmann. Philipp nodded briefly, he jumped on the ice and we won 2-1. Philipp had had an extraordinary match.
“At that point, I thought to myself that we had nothing to lose by sending a 16-year-old in net and it could only be positive. This is exactly what happened. «
He could live up to the team’s expectations.
As far back as Grubauer can remember, that has always been his goal. He started attending games at the age of 2-3 with Susi, while his father was working for the local team. He first put on skates at age 4, then his passion for hockey became evident.
“Basically, you can’t have a plan to play in the NHL,” added Peter, still a little amazed by his son’s journey.
It got more serious between the ages of 13 and 15, as the 2008 Canadian Hockey League (CHL) International Draft approached, an event that would change his life. He moved from Rosenheim to Belleville in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), where he was fortunate enough to play with Bjorn Krupp, the son of former NHL defenseman Uwe Krupp.
“He was very spectacular back then. He was clearing pucks on the fly with his shorthanded shield, Krupp recalled. This struck me. «
Krupp facilitated Grubauer’s adaptation to North American hockey, speaking to the young goalie in German, spending time with him and getting to know his personality.
“He’s a very quiet guy,” Krupp said. It shows by the way he plays. He is very calm and it reflects his personality. He worked like a madman. He had a goal and he was determined. «
This goal has not changed.
In Rosenheim, at the ROFA-Stadion, where the Star Bulls play, the VIP section has recently been redone. Photos of Grubauer hang there, a tribute to the player who always wanted to be one of the best. He is notably seen wearing the typical Bavarian bib panties with the Stanley Cup in his hands, a photo from his day with the trophy in 2018.
“I’m proud of him and what he’s accomplished,” said Krupp. Especially for a German player.
» With Leon draisaitl who is a dominant player, hockey is developing and it shows young people that there is hope for smaller countries in hockey. There are more and more young people playing now, and having a goalie in addition to a striker, it shows that when you put all your efforts on something, you can make your dream come true, no matter where you come from. . «
In Germany, we hope that he will one day be back with the Cup, won with the Kraken. It would be the perfect opportunity for another tribute, another celebration, another moment that would allow Grubauer to fit into the greats he has admired for so long.
* With contributions from independent correspondent NHL.com/de Stefan Herget.