Marty Turco might be the only guy ever to be happy to pass up a chance to go to Rome to spend a day in Wilmington.
The Bruins newest goalie was all set to begin a family vacation in Italy this week, resigned to the fact that he would not get back to the NHL this season after spending the past decade in the league. Those plans changed when injuries to Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin left the Bruins scrambling for a veteran netminder to help ease the burden on Tim Thomas, and Turco answered the call.
“I was on vacation, going to Italy,” Turco said after participating in his first practice with Boston at Ristuccia Arena after clearing waivers on Wednesday. “The family was coming over. The plan was Venice, Florence, Rome. Eat and then come home and start training just in case. It’s crazy how it all works out.”
After 10 seasons with Dallas and Chicago, Turco went unsigned as a free agent this past summer, eventually settling on a deal to play for EC Red Bull Salzburg in Austria.
“I’m not going to lie, some days it was a real kick in the pants,” Turco said. “Part of the reason I had success or even made the NHL for that matter, was because of the expectations I had and where I expected to be. So when you know you have better and you’re disappointed to not be in the league or have belief from others can be demeaning.
“But as difficult as it was, I went to bed a hockey player and still woke up like one and I knew I still had stuff to give in this league,” Turco added. “I would really kick myself if I had an opportunity and wasn’t ready. That’s the one thing I can look in the mirror for this season and be most proud of, I skated as often as I could to be ready for moments such as this.”
Turco’s Austrian team was eliminated from the playoffs last Thursday, and he skated once since then, so he isn’t dealing with a long layoff. But there’s still a big difference between facing that level of competition and facing NHL shooters again.
“I really don’t think it will take long at all,” Turco said. “It’s just more getting back in the flow. The adjustment won’t really take much in terms of the speed or shoots. The ice is a little smaller, things happen a little quicker and they are better players with the utmost confidence, which is a big reason why they are in the NHL.”
The Bruins will give Turco the time he needs, but the initial impression from the first practice was positive.
“If he’s ready to go soon we’ll see him soon, but if he needs a little time we’ll give him some time,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “At this point I’ll have to play it by ear.
“I thought his enthusiasm was there,” Julien added. “You could see he was working hard at feeling the puck and getting his timing, which is exactly what you’d expect from a goaltender who’s practicing for the first time in a while. We know how good a goaltender he’s been in the league. That’s not the issue. It’s giving him an opportunity.”
It’s an opportunity Turco is extremely grateful to get.
“It felt good,” Turco said. “More than anything it’s just good to be back on the ice with some bright lights and NHL players, never mind the Boston Bruins. It was a great day for my family and I. I’m pretty appreciative of the phone call.”
Turco just wanted another shot in the NHL. Joining the reigning Cup champions with a chance at another title just makes the opportunity even better.
“This team is intact from last year,” said Turco, who won’t be eligible to play in the playoffs since he signed with the team after the trade deadline. “That sets them apart, which you can just tell the way they play and act and talk. It’s their togetherness, and you can feel that when you walk into the locker room instantly. This team is competitive, they’re together and they’re in it to win. They’ve faced adversity. They’re going through some at the moment. It’s a special feeling for me. I couldn’t pick a better team to come to, though it wasn’t any wishful thinking on my part. Any team would be great. The NHL is a special place, but it’s ever greater to be a Bruin.”
The Bruins are equally excited to have Turco join them.
“We are all happy to have him,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. “We know what he can do. He’s established himself in this league as one of the top goalies. I can see in his eyes that he’s excited, and we are probably even more excited to have him. You don’t find that many chances to bring players like that your team with the qualities he can bring. So we’re very, very happy to have him.”
Turco couldn’t be happier either, even if it did mean postponing his tour of Italy.