July 12, 2004
Postcard: If I Can Make it There ...

The Rangers took Montoya at No. 6 overall.

Fans of Michigan hockey – and those at rival schools – have pondered the same question for weeks: Will Al Montoya return for his junior year with the Wolverines or sign with the New York Rangers? The sixth overall pick in last month’s NHL Entry Draft says he’ll provide the answer as soon as this week.

Montoya generously allowed INCH readers to share in his experiences during the weeks leading up to the draft. In his first post-draft discussion with Mike Eidelbes, he sheds light on his biggest decision to date and recaps the whirlwind pace of the last two weeks.

The Life of Al

Al Montoya has graciously shared his thoughts on the NHL Draft process with Inside College Hockey and ESPN.com readers. We've also told the tale of the goalie who could be the next light on Broadway.

Get a good look at the team Montoya could be joining in this ESPN.com interview with Don Maloney.

“Out of respect for Coach [Red] Berenson and my teammates back at Michigan, I want to get [my career plans] figured out for everyone’s sake. I’m hoping to get this done and figure out what I want to do by Wednesday or sometime around there. I’ve talked to the people I trust the most and tell me what they feel is best for me. I’ve put together a list of pros and cons. I don’t think there’s a wrong decision – either choice I make will be a right decision. In the end, there will be a better choice for me. When that time comes, I’ll make it.

“My family’s trip to Hilton Head [after the draft] was relaxing, letting go of everything, not having any worries. It was nice to be with them. We didn’t really have a plan. Whatever you wanted to do, you did. We enjoyed ourselves. There was no set schedule. We went golfing, laid on the beach for a couple hours a day, had some fun and just hung out. We cut off all the distraction and really focused on spending as much time together as a family as we could.

“But I had to cut my trip short. My family ended up staying there a couple days longer even though I had to leave and go to New York [along with other Rangers prospects]. We got to see the training facility. We got to see everything…well, not everything there is to see in New York, because you couldn’t do that in a whole year. We got to experience a Yankees-Mets game and we got to meet some of the players. It sent chills through my body when the teams stepped on the field and the whole place went crazy. It didn’t matter if it was the Yankees or the Mets – it was just as loud for both teams.

“We got to watch batting practice, too. [Alex] Rodriguez was pretty impressive in the way he dealt with everything and the way he handled himself out there. The reason he’s made it [where he is] is because he can deal with all the aspects of being a pro. He’s professional in all the areas that he has to be, especially to survive in a place like that…living in New York and playing for the biggest team in the biggest market, you’ve got to be able to handle everything.

“I met [Jose] Contreras. He didn’t speak any English, so I had to speak with him in Spanish. He was telling me how his family had just come over from Cuba, how he left there a few years ago and how he was excited that I was the first Cuban-American drafted. It was pretty neat, actually. We connect on that level of knowing how important [family] is and how easy it can be taken away from you. Even though he’s dealt with it firsthand and I haven’t, there’s already something there that we have in common.

“At the Carnegie Deli, they named a sandwich after me. It was called the Al Cubano. It was a regular Cuban sandwich. It’s a huge sandwich. It’s pretty good…all the rest of the guys enjoyed it. They said it’s on the menu now. It’s one part of being in New York and shows how big everything is there. Things just keep piling on and they’re all great.”

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