Jeff Glass couldn’t wipe the smile off his face after his NHL debut as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday.
And that’s pretty understandable given where he’s been.
Glass burst onto the scene in the lead up to the 2005 World Junior Championships. He was named Canada’s starting goaltender for that tournament and didn’t disappoint.
Glass did exactly what he was tasked to do, winning all five of the games he played in, including the gold medal game and restored his country back to the summit of junior hockey for the first time since 1997.
The team was full of what would become NHL greats Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, Shea Weber and Ryan Getzlaf all suited up for Canada that year on a team that has the unofficial moniker of Canada’s best ever sent to the world junior tournament.
He was roommates during the tournament with Blackhawks teammate Brent Seabrook.
But while many of his teammates headed directly to the NHL and onto several Stanley Cups and a myriad of other accolades, Glass took a route that took him to the opposites ends of the earth.
“There were a few bleak moments where I didn’t believe it could happen,” Glass told Sportsnet after Friday’s game in Edmonton, just a few hours north of his childhood home in Calgary.
He once played in Siberia, where he told Sportsnet it snowed for 45 days straight. He toiled in the AHL, the ECHL and the KHL for years since being drafted 89th overall by the Ottawa Senators in 2005. He was most recently with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League, and after an injury to Corey Crawford, was recalled on Wednesday after Crawford was put on injured reserve.
Glass’ journey is a tale of hard work, sticking to it, and waiting for his time to come — all cliches we often take for granted in the sports world. Glass is living proof and a testament that dreams are never dead, just sometimes delayed.
At 32 years old (and 40 days), Glass, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Glass (32 years, 40 days) became the second-oldest goaltender since 1967 to earn a win in his NHL debut.
He stopped 42 shots in a 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers, a game he found out he was starting in at 2 a.m. that morning when the team touched down in Edmonton.
And now he holds saves over arguably the best player in the world, including this welcome-to-the-NHL moment in the first period. He was named, fittingly and deservedly, the game’s first star.
His parents, his wife, and his two-month-old daughter were able to get to the game he never thought would come.
“It’ something I’ve always dreamed of,” Glass said after the game.
It’s a journey, Glass said, that he wouldn’t trade for the world.
“Not for a second, I would not,” he said. “The experience I had overseas was great. On the ice, off the ice, I matured as a person. It really taught me a lot about what’s important to me and what I valued. Where I wanted to be. After spending so much time over there I really wanted to give this one more shot. To prove to myself if I could do it. If there was still something there.”
And when the Blackhawks take on his hometown Calgary Flames on Sunday, it’s a pretty safe bet that Glass will make start No. 2.
There’s no question that he’s earned it.
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck