Catching Up With Jim Howard
The last 10
months in the life of Maine goaltender Jim Howard have seen him
experience highs and lows ranging from his red-hot start at Maine
to being relegated to back-up duty for the United States at the
World Junior Championship, and eventually ending with an upset
loss in the Hockey East quarterfinals and first-round elimination
in the NCAA Tournament.
was Inside College Hockey's Rookie of the Year in Hockey East
and earned a spot on the conference's All-Rookie Team. Then, there
were scouting combines, workouts, and interviews in advance of
the NHL Entry Draft, which saw Howard selected in the second round
by the Detroit Red Wings with the 64th overall pick.
are settling down into a more relaxing summer, and Inside College
Hockey caught up with the sophomore-to-be as he's back in Orono
working the university's hockey schools which continue through
the month of July.
was raised in upstate New York as a Rangers fan, but was quite
aware of the Red Wings' prestigious history –
one that includes 10 Stanley Cups. He was able to fully appreciate
the loyal hockey fan base in the Motor City after he moved to
Ann Arbor during his stint in the U.S. National Team Development
thrilled when I heard my name announced across the loudspeakers
being drafted by Detroit. The team is just unbelievable. Year-in
and year-out they're contending for the Stanley Cup," Howard
family that I lived with in Ann Arbor had (Red Wings) season tickets
and I got to go to a couple of games there. Seeing that fan support
is just tremendous."
name was called Howard met with the Red Wings brass, who set a
plan in place for his future, which includes good news for Maine
to speak with the whole organization basically, (general manager)
Ken Holland, coach (Dave) Lewis, and Scotty Bowman," Howard
said. The message from the Red Wings higher-ups was very clear.
They would like for him to develop over the next several years,
and they think that college hockey is the right place for that
going to stay in school for the next three years, and just develop
as a player and a person. I can work on my game, get better, and
there's no rush from their standpoint."
by the Red Wings was a change in pattern for that organization.
In recent drafts, the Wings have hardly even considered a goaltender
with a high draft choice and have also made a habit of selecting
European players. This marked the first time in franchise history
that the Red Wings selected an American-born player with their
general manager Jim Nill said at the draft, "He plays big
in net. He's not really a flopper and we like his experience.
He played at the Under-18's in Europe and the NCAAs...we like
the fact that he's got a lot of experience."
It was an
up-and-down season for Howard, who stormed out of the gates with
a torrid first half of the season. His first loss didn't come
until February. Eventually, things turned sour for Howard and
the rest of the Black Bears, who narrowly missed a Hockey East
regular-season title before suffering an upset in the conference
tournament quarterfinals and a first-round defeat in the NCAA
Down the stretch,
coach Tim Whitehead opted for junior goalie Frank Doyle ahead
of the rookie phenom, but that didn't strain relationships between
such a great guy, and fantastic to share time with," Howard
said. "He and I push each other in practices and games, and
can help each other out when things aren't going well. When one
of us is down, we can always get a laugh out of each other."
Howard return as bright spots on a Maine team that was devastated
by losing key veterans in the lineup. Departed seniors from last
year's roster include forwards Robert Liscak, Lucas Lawson, Martin
Kariya, Gray Shaneberger and Chris Heisten, and defensemen Cliff
Loya and Tom Reimann. Also, First Team All-Hockey East defenseman
Francis Nault has been ruled ineligible for the upcoming season,
meaning that Maine's top five scorers from last season won't be
on the ice for the Black Bears this fall.
going to be a young team, but I think we're going to surprise
a lot of people as a hard-working team that doesn't take anything
for granted. We'll set goals for ourselves and do whatever it
takes to achieve them," Howard said.
sophomore campaign in Orono officially kicks off, Howard is looking
forward to the U.S. National Team's evaluation camp from August
3-10 in Lake Placid, N.Y. It will give the Ogdensburg, N.Y., native
a chance to return to the North Country and get in some top-notch
summertime preparation as the two U.S. squads will play exhibition
games with under-20 teams from Finland and Sweden.
invited to camp are Michigan's Al Montoya, Michigan State freshman-to-be
Dominic Vicari, and OHLer Mike Brown. Howard is one of 11 players
on last year's World Junior roster among the 43
invites to the camp.