To Get to the Blackhawks’ Net, Jeff Glass Took the Long Way

To Get to the Blackhawks’ Net, Jeff Glass Took the Long Way

Since making his inaugural appearance just 175 miles from his hometown, Calgary, Glass has registered a 3-2-1 record and a .910 save percentage while splitting time with his fellow backup Anton Forsberg.

As so often happens in sports, Glass owes his good fortune to another player’s misfortune. The Blackhawks’ top goalie, the veteran All-Star Corey Crawford, remains sidelined and on injured reserve with an upper-body injury. The Blackhawks have declined to comment on Crawford’s injury or a timetable for him to return. Several published reports this week indicated that Crawford could miss the remainder of the season, which could keep Glass in a N.H.L. uniform for the foreseeable future.

Since being called up, Glass has maintained a day-to-day, businesslike approach and has avoided becoming awe-struck in a room full of superstars. The Blackhawks (22-17-6) have struggled in ways that predate their three Stanley Cup championships since 2010. They are currently not in playoff position.

But Glass’s feel-good story has resonated around the N.H.L. and even more so within the confines of the Blackhawks’ dressing room, where stars like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have become big-time Glass supporters.

“It’s been pretty cool to have a front-row seat for it,” Kane said.

Glass was playing in Canada’s Western Hockey League when the Ottawa Senators drafted him in 2004 with the 89th pick. From there he went to Charlotte of the East Coast Hockey League, then moved to Binghamton of the American Hockey League. In 2009 he signed with Barys Astana in Kazakhstan and headed to the Kontinental Hockey League.

A world away from the N.H.L. rinks he aspired to play on, Glass discovered a passionate fan base and the opportunity to grow and develop in a place he could not even imagine living with his wife, Allie. Then his agent mentioned the possibility of continuing his career there. Glass’s K.H.L. journey took him to Spartak Moscow, CSKA Moscow, Lada Togliatti, Novosibirsk Sibir and Dinamo Minsk.


Glass spent seven seasons in the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League before returning to North America in 2016 to try to make it to the N.H.L.

Dennis Wierzbicki/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Glass landed on the Blackhawks’ radar in 2014, when team officials were seeking a third goaltender to round out their system. Mark Bernard, the Blackhawks’ general manager of minor league affiliations, became aware of Glass’s track record and penchant for hard work, leadership and attention to detail.

But Glass instead elected to return to the K.H.L., where he would play until 2016, when he decided his best route to the N.H.L. would probably travel through North America, where his career had started so many years before.

Glass got a training camp invitation from the Toronto Maple Leafs and played briefly with the club’s A.H.L. affiliate. Glass later signed with the Blackhawks and was assigned to their A.H.L. team in Rockford, Ill., just 90 minutes outside Chicago. Bernard immediately sensed Glass was prepared to do whatever was necessary to reach the N.H.L.

“He’s a guy that had a goal in mind — ‘I’m going to play in the N.H.L.,’” Bernard said.

Glass made 20 starts for Rockford’s IceHogs last season, and another 18 this season. He had just returned from a two-day holiday break in Calgary when he received word the Blackhawks had placed Crawford on injured reserve.

Glass was instructed to meet the team in Vancouver. Glass first contacted his wife, who was in Calgary with the couple’s newborn daughter, Lucy.

As thrilled as he was, Glass realized he could not allow the promotion to change his approach.

“It’s a big deal, but you try to remember, I’ve been doing this for a long time, this isn’t my first year pro by any means,” Glass said. “It’s definitely a step up from where I had been playing, but all the years in Russia prepared me for this.”

News of Glass’s call-up spread quickly. The congratulatory text messages and phone calls poured in from friends and family members, some of whom, Glass said, had not been in touch for years. As he prepared to join the Blackhawks, the freshly minted N.H.L. rookie could not help but think back on all of the steps that had brought him to this point.

“Most guys might have said, ‘Hey, I want to get a real job and get on with Plan B,’” Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville said. “That’s a testament to how competitive he is and that dream of playing in the N.H.L. has got to be part of it.”

Glass refuses to let the speed of the N.H.L. intimidate him. Same goes for the pressure of playing a role in moving the Blackhawks closer to a playoff berth. He cannot afford to predict how long he will remain while Crawford’s next steps are up in the air.

Taking each day as it comes has always been part of Glass’s routine, and so he isn’t about to change a formula that has served him so well.

“At the end of the day,” Glass said, “it’s just a matter of going out and stopping hockey pucks.”

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