Four goaltenders attended the same National Lacrosse League training camp and all four hailed from Kitchener.
Crazier yet, when all was said and done, all four made the team.
Mike Poulin will get the starting assignment Saturday night when the Georgia Swarm open their regular-season schedule against New England Wolves at Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth, Ga.
Kevin Orleman will serve as Poulin’s backup, while Steven Orleman and Craig Wende have been assigned to the team’s four-man practice squad. The Swarm unveiled their 21-man roster Monday after an intense two-week training camp that saw the four goaltenders support each other while trying to outperform each other.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. The fact there are four goalies from the same city in the entire league would be very rare, the fact we all wound up trying out for the same time is incredible,” said Poulin.
“Everyone had great training camps, to the point where the Swarm decided to make goaltending a position of depth and hang on to all four of us. That’s the coolness of the situation, that all four guys made the team.”
Poulin will celebrate his 33rd birthday on Monday, two days after embarking on his 14th NLL season. He won a league championship with Georgia two years ago and has also earned individual awards during his storied career that started with the Toronto Rock and included stops with the Boston Blazers and Calgary Roughnecks.
Kevin Orleman, 22, has followed Poulin’s career for as long as he can remember and looks back fondly on summer camps and one-on-one training sessions with his future teammate. He also recalls family trips to the Air Canada Centre to see Poulin play and thinking how cool it would be to play the game professionally, with thousands of spectators looking on.
“We have a Mike Poulin Toronto Rock jersey from when I was like six years old, so playing with him is like being a kid at Disney World,” said Orleman.
“This is a guy I idolized growing up, a guy who used to come to my practices and teach me how to play goalie and now I’m his teammate. How cool is that?”
Georgia’s top goalies are at very different stages of their lives.
Poulin is a married father of three who works weekdays for Waterloo-based Clearpath Robotics before hitting the road on Friday night to join his Georgia teammates. The Swarm’s 18-game schedule features nine games at home, as well as road contests against Toronto, Philadelphia, New England, Rochester, Colorado, Buffalo and Calgary.
This week’s schedule includes a 6 p.m. flight to Atlanta, a 9 p.m. practice and a Saturday morning shootaround. He will return home early Sunday morning.
It’s a hectic schedule that Poulin doesn’t see himself continuing for too much longer. He has already decided to put an end to his summer season — he played for the Brooklin Redmen this year — and said he will likely leave the winter game behind him in the next year or two. To get his summer fix, Poulin will fill a coaching role with the Kitchener-Waterloo Jr. Braves next year.
“I’ve gone from a year-by-year mentality to a day-by-day mentality. Physically, I feel like I can play for a number of years but I want to be there when my kids start playing hockey on Saturday mornings and I feel like I’ve missed out on enough Christmas parties, birthdays and family events,” he said.
“I’m certainly not going to close the door on anything but I see it closing sooner than later.”
Orleman is at the other end of the career path.
The University of Guelph economics student earned a spot on the Swarm roster last season but was sidelined by mononucleosis and missed the first half of the season. He captured the backup role upon his return but didn’t see any action.
He has no idea what to expect this season but has no problem playing behind Poulin and learning the ropes.
“I’m not too concerned about my playing time and whatnot, whenever it happens, I’ve got to go in and make the most of it. Mike is a talented goalie, one of the best in the league, and I just want to learn as much as I can from him and if I’m called upon, go in and do the best I can,” said Orleman, who played for the Cobourg Kodiaks this past summer.
“I’m in no rush and won’t regret holding off on getting a big-boy job at the expense of living my dream for a few extra years.”
As practice squad players, Steven Orleman, 19, and Wende, 27, are eligible to play in the Ontario-based Arena Lacrosse League and will fly solo to Swarm games as the team’s third-string goaltender.
The NLL season, which was delayed for two weeks by a labour dispute, opens this weekend with three games on the schedule. Elsewhere, the Buffalo Bandits take on the Philadelphia Wings and the Vancouver Warriors face the Calgary Roughnecks.
Kitchener natives Dhane Smith plays for the Bandits and Chris Cloutier is a rookie for the Wings.
Ryan Benesch, another Kitchener product, plays for the Colorado Mammoth and opens his season next weekend against the San Diego Seals.