Justin Cardinal planed to spend the first month of summer teaching young goalies how to bail out for their hockey teams.
Instead, he was called in to try to save his family home in Exshaw, Alta., west of Calgary, and help his mom rescue her worldly possessions when the Bow River flooded its banks on June 20th.
Unfortunately, the new goalie coach of the Prince George Cougars fought a losing battle. The house he grew up in was water-damaged beyond repair and all but one bag of his mother's belongings were ruined.
"Our busy time is the summertime and I think I worked four days in July," said Cardinal, who operates Goalie Development Institution in Calgary. "Mom's street got hit the hardest. Her house is getting destroyed but she's OK. The water stayed in the house and it grew mold, so everything had to be thrown out. It's tough but we'll get through it."
Cardinal was named the Cougars goaltender consultant this summer, continuing a relationship he started with Cougars head coach Mark Holick when Holick was with the Kootenay Ice. Cardinal coached the Ice goalies for five years. He plans to work with the Cougars netminders at least once a month.
"It's my first time seeing a lot of these guys and so I'm excited, there are a lot of good goaltenders here," said Cardinal following his first on-ice session with the Cats' goalies Saturday .
"The biggest thing I can do to help these guys is to identify weaknesses and strengths. You have to identify your weaknesses and play within your strengths and the biggest thing guys here need to understand is it's hard work. The hardest-working is the best goaltender because not only are you getting better every day but you're confident in your abilities."
Cardinal, 32, is a former Swift Current Broncos bantam draft pick with 12 years of coaching experience. He started GDI with business partner Kevin Swanson, a former Cougars goalie.
Twenty-year-old goalie Mac Engel is looking forward to regular consultations with Cardinal.
"Last year it was just me and [Brett] Zarowny competing with each other and trying to help each other out so it's nice to have someone to point things out and get us moving in the right direction," said Engel.