By Mike Mastovich
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Corey Schwab’s second visit to Cambria County War Memorial Arena was a bit more mundane than his first trip to Johnstown during the spring of 1992.
“I don’t remember who the player was going up into the stands into the press box to get at the commissioner,” Schwab said after watching the Johnstown Chiefs’ intrasquad scrimmage Wednesday night. “That was the only time that I ever played here. Coming in here and reading stories about Johnstown, the team and the arena. … That made everything seem like it was real.”
Schwab was the Cincinnati Cyclones goaltender in a best-of-3 Riley Cup playoff series against the Chiefs in 1992. He was a first-year pro who eventually played eight seasons in the NHL.
That ‘92 series ended with frustrated Chiefs forward Brian Ferreira tossing a puck into the press box in the direction of then-commissioner Pat Kelly. Ferreira and Chiefs center Matt Glennon then stormed the press box in a case of life imitating the infamous art of “Slap Shot.”
Fast forward 13-plus years and Schwab had more serious matters on his mind while sitting in the top row of seats and wearing a suit and tie.
He’s in his first season as the Tampa Bay Lightning’s associate goaltenders coach. Last season, Schwab was locked out with the rest of the NHL players.
His NHL career lasted from 1995 through 2004 and included stops with New Jersey (1995-96, 2003-04), Tampa Bay (1996-99), Vancouver (1999-00) and Toronto (2001-02).
Schwab, 34, sees parallels between that 1991-92 season and what today’s players experience.
“My first year of pro I was in Utica for most of the year and then went to Cincinnati of the East Coast League for the last eight games of the season and the playoffs,” Schwab said. “At that point I needed to go to play a bunch of games at the end of the season because I wasn’t going to play the last little bit in Utica.
“That’s what this league is all about, to give guys an opportunity to play.”
Schwab’s new job focuses on the mental part of a goaltender’s game almost as much, if not more, than the actual physical side.
“Most goalies coming up now are pretty technically sound,” said Schwab, who will tutor Tampa Bay contract goalie Jon Boutin and third-year Chiefs netminder David Currie.
“The biggest thing they need to work on is developing mental toughness and the mental strength that no matter what happens in a game or a series of games, they can recover from it.”
Boutin and Currie each had solid outings on Wednesday. Each allowed a goal in regulation and fared well during 10 shootout rounds.
“These are still young kids playing in a man’s game,” Schwab said. “The biggest thing for a goalie is to be able to develop that mental toughness and be able to deal with whatever happens.”
A lot can happen in net. Schwab should know. He worked his way up the minor-league ladder until he had an opportunity with the Devils, who selected him in the 10th round of the 1990 NHL Draft.
“After Utica, I was fortunate to go to a good team in Cincinnati, and we did fairly well in the playoffs,” Schwab said. “I had success at that level and the confidence that I gained helped me in the years that followed.
“I spent the first four years in the minors before I ever played a game in the NHL. Nobody is counted out whether you’re in this league or the American Hockey League.”