The Back-Up Plan

What does Al Montoya do when he’s not playing? Why, he journals, of course. Here’s peek inside the mind of a man who’s paid to sit and wait.


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Oct. 1

Feel good this season. I see big things coming, a time to shine. Surely no one’s fooled by Ondrej’s flashy but inconsistent play. I won a gold medal once. I’m championship caliber. I know I am. I just need the chance to prove it. Stuck in Edmonton for a couple days. I started watching Breaking Bad on Netflix. What was I waiting for? This show is really good.

Oct. 2

Okay, Pav played pretty well last night but he didn’t have to rub it in. He came back into the dressing room after and saw me watching Breaking Bad on my iPad and was like, “Don’t get too attached to Hank,” and flicked me in the ear. I hate when he does that. Jerk. I’m only half-way through Season 2. Still a cool show.

Oct. 5

Pav pulled it off again. Still… rebounds. Does no one else see what I’m seeing? It’s gonna bite him in the ass. I asked Coach about how many games I might be looking at this season he just told me to be patient. I’m patient, man, I’m super patient. I’m The English Patient. Ha. Ooh, I bet that’s on Netflix! I had dinner with Dustin Brown last night. He kept referring to himself as Stanley Cup Winner Dustin Brown. Like, that whole phrase every time he referred to himself. Okay, it’s one (very annoying) thing to refer to yourself in the third person all the time but it’s a whole other thing to include a title. He’s not a doctor or medieval land baron! Sure works with the ladies though. I tried it out but when they asked where my ring was, I just had to pretend my phone was vibrating and excuse myself to take the call.

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Oct. 6

The Ducks are in town and all anyone can talk about is Teemu this and Teemu that. Sure, he’s an incredible player but what else? I just checked his Wikipedia page. He’s a dad, a handicap golfer and racecar driver. Note to self: Ask Teemu for self-actualization tips. Don’t forget to congratulate him on legacy, drop reference to Indycar something or other…

Oct. 9

A couple days off before we head down to Minnesota. We met with some kind of inspirational speaker, Dr. Gary someone. Dude is edgy. I tried talking to Coach Noel about getting in a game or two early this season. I told him about my good feeling. He said he’s glad to hear that I’m staying positive. I asked him if he’d ever seen the English Patient. He said his wife made him watch it once but he doesn’t normally go for foreign films. I reminded him that is was actually an English-language film. I don’t think he appreciated my correction. Goddammit, Al, why do you have to do that to people? Do you have to be right all the time? I don’t think he’s going to let me play in Minny. Note to self: Seek out rare Husker Du 7-inch singles in record shops down there. Bob Mould is the tits.

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Oct. 11

That Wild team barely generates any offense. I could have made a difference. Whatever. It’s Canadian thanksgiving! If there’s turkey, I’m there. What am I feeling thankful for this year? My family. My pet gerbil, Scout. Netflix. Winnipeg fans – they never recognize me in the streets but they wear their jerseys everywhere. It’s pretty cool. My glove hand – quicker this year. They’ll see. I found a recipe for sweet potato cobbler that I’m bringing to Grant Clitsome’s house for dinner on Sunday. He wants to hear my new Husker Du vinyl.

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Oct. 13

What’s that sound? Nothing? You didn’t hear anything? No, you damn well did not. That’s because I shut it out! Shut. Out. Shut out. Ain’t no thang. Who’s house? Al’s house. Where we shut that door tight to keep out the cold, babies. Tonight will be bourbon, neat, and cookie dough ice cream to celebrate.

Oct. 15

Are you freaking serious?! Hey, Al, nice job posting our first shutout of the season. Your reward is more pine! FML. Started reading The Diving Bell and The Butterfly. It’s about a man who’s literally trapped in his own body and learns to communicate by blinking. Insane. I don’t think I could live like that. Breathe, Al, breathe.

Oct. 16

Eat it, Coach. You lost hard. A shut out the other way doesn’t feel so great, does it? I had the hot hand and you ignored it. You reap what you sew. I am the one who knocks! Man, I gotta get a hold of this rage in me. You knew you weren’t the guy when they hired you, Al. You have a role. Make the best of your role. You’ll get your shot. Drej is a nice enough guy even if he always finishes your crossword puzzles with obscenities. 12 Down, 10 letters for “lighting strike”, starts with “B”: Ballsniffr. This is what passes for humour around here. Jerk.

Oct. 18

Well, after that humiliating loss to the Canadiens, it makes sense that the coach would come back to me to face the Blues since they’re being touted as an early Cup favourite – oh, what? No, not my turn? This is ridiculous. I had a Skype call with my old high school friend, Jimmy Bolland. Jimmy’s one of those guys who can always put things in perspective for me. He reminded me that I’m a grown man being paid a fairly handsome salary to play a game. I reminded him that I don’t actually play much of that game and it’s becoming a bit spirit crushing. No little boy dreams of warming a bench. I took my 2004 World Junior gold medal out and meditated on it for a while. Has it really been 10 years? Jimmy said, yeah, look at your hairline. He’s a good dude; he makes me laugh.

Oct. 21

I’ve never hated Mondays the way the world says you’re supposed to. To me they’re a reset button. New week, new outlook, wipe the slate clean and start fresh. Frankly, I was happy to have Sunday off against the Preds. Shea Weber shoots that puck like it said something nasty about his mom. Have fun, Drej, he’s all yours. Somehow we pulled out a win against St. Louis earlier this week but I knew those stingy Preds would be a different story. Their team defense is admirable. I don’t get the logo, though. Sabretooth Tigers in Nashville? Anyway, I’m making notes on these teams; we’ve got to find a way to beat some of them. I’m just gonna be pure “Monday” for Coach. The clean slate is ready when you need him, Coach. Would that be a good nickname: Clean Slate? Not very dramatic. I need something more assertive maybe…

Oct. 22

It’s late and I’m wiped out. It was work just watching that game – so exciting! Those Caps can fly! Ovechkin is a beast. I tweeted at him once when I was still with the Isles about a sick deke of his I saw on Sportscentre. He favourited it. That was neat. We were actually holding our own against them tonight. I told Wheels I was proud of him. He just nodded, kinda mumbled thanks. It took all my will power not to leave my unfinished crossword in Drej’s locker with the message,”7 letter word for choke artist – starts with P”. I realized it wasn’t constructive. That’s old Al. New Al is upbeat, a team player, a role model of bench support. I’ve been up all night watching Breaking Bad. Only the finale left now. I’m not ready to watch it yet.

Oct. 26

These road trips are tough. I’ll go record shopping here in Dallas. There’s gotta be some hidden treasures. It’s not Austin but there’s gotta be something cool. Tonight’s another night on the bench and on Hockey Night In Canada, no less. Hi, Mom, it’s Al… I’m doing okay, been better. Maybe I’ll watch the BB finale. It’s weird to have watched this story fly by that was years in the making but only a few days in consumption. I don’t want it to end because I don’t have anything else lined up in my Netflix queue and then, well, there’s just a bunch of B movies left to watch. I like a series – the plot twists and character development… it’s like you have a relationship with these people. You become invested in their stories like they’re your own. I dunno. Maybe I’ll try The Wire, I hear good things.

Oct. 26 – cont’d

Dammit all, Drej was great tonight. These flashes of greatness make the whole situation even more frustrating. I’d be totally fine never playing if he were up to that level every night – hell, I’d be his biggest fan! We could train together, grow and learn. I’d help him with my keen observations from the bench and he’d share some of his shootout tips with me. That would be great, kinda the way it should be… a proper tandem. Back-to-back, early to Denver tomorrow. I’ll get a chance to show my stuff again, finally! It’s a tough assignment but I’m ready.


I’m not a conspiracy theorist. Oswald was a lone shooter and we actually walked on the moon but why does it feel like I was set-up to fail? Out of the two back-to-back, this is the one they throw at me? Or was it a vote of confidence? Either way, the Av’s are heavy hitters this year and boy did they work the body on us last night. I feel like I did my best, I really do. Coach just shrugged, said, “Them’s the breaks, Monty.” He’s never called me Monty before. Is that a good sign?

I’m not sure what to do to make things better. Ever since they threw that big bag of money at Drej, it’s like they’re hoping it would make him a better goalie just because they told themselves he’s worth it. I mean, what am I even supposed to learn from the guy? If Miller was here or Marty or Lou, those guys could help me get to the next level but Drej… I dunno. What if tonight was my chance and I blew it? What if that chance was last year? Or Long Island? Or Phoenix? No, I have time. Look at Roloson or Timmy T or Hasek – there’s lots of guys who had their best years late. I’m not even thirty yet. I got time.


We’re at the end of October. It’s make or break. If we don’t catch up soon, the playoffs are doubtful. I don’t wanna rain math on any of the guys’ parades but we’re in a bit of a situation. Maybe I’ll throw a party when we get home from the road, loosen the boys up, get everyone psyched to make a real run at things. I’ll have to remember to hide the sausage rolls from Drej, he always pigs out on them. Jerk.