JASON BOTCHFORD, Vancouver Sun
Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2006
EDMONTON -- Dany Sabourin’s professional career has been anything but easy.
The Canucks backup goalie started his first game of the season Tuesday night against the Oilers and gave up two goals in the first three minutes in a 2-1 loss. He played well for the rest of the game, finishing the night with 18 saves on 20 shots.
Sabourin thought he was ready and willing to be the Calgary Flames starting goalie of the future back in 2003. Then the Flames changed everything in a trade that landed them Miikka Kiprusoff.
Sabourin was the American Hockey League goalie of the year last season for Wilkes-Barre but lost his No. 1 spot in the playoffs because the team’s parent club, the Pittsburgh Penguins, wanted Marc-Andre Fleury to get some pressure playing time.
And in his only other NHL start in the past three years he failed miserably in January. He let in four goals in 20:33 playing for the Penguins against Columbus. He was pulled from the game.
But all his professional growing pains pale in comparison to the personal struggles Sabourin has faced.
In 2000, Sabourin, who was then 19, lost his mother Cecile to a long battle with intestinal cancer. Then, in 2003, his wife Cindy Herbert was in a horrific car accident in Val D’Or, Que.
She suffered severe head trauma. She was in a coma in a Montreal hospital for more than a week. Sabourin rarely, if ever, left her side.
"Those were real tough times," Sabourin said.
Herbert was in intensive care for a month and then a rehab stint lasted several more months.
"Watching her was a real inspiration for me," Sabourin said. "She never gave up, she never lost hope."
Sabourin’s wife is fully recovered now. She has moved to Vancouver.
"My wife and children are very happy right now," Sabourin said. "They are so happy to be in Vancouver."
Now, it’s Sabourin’s turn to never lose hope.
At 26, he remains determined to prove he belongs in the NHL, even if he only gets 15 games playing behind Roberto Luongo to show it.
The Canucks are convinced he’s a different goalie than he was three years ago when he was cast aside after four NHL starts in Calgary because of Kiprusoff’s arrival. Sabourin said he’s faster. He’s more technical. He’s more mentally prepared.
"I have improved a lot and you can see that with the way I’ve played in each of the past three years," Sabourin said. "Especially in the past year. I am a much better technical goalie now. I also understand a lot more about the mental game. I know that I’m a lot more consistent now and you could see that in the year I had last year. That was my best year so far."