TORONTO – There is a legend about Jonathan Quick that has nothing to do with his ability to play goal for the Los Angeles Kings. It is about his ability to sleep, a talent he famously showcased as a prospect in the minor leagues, and one that still requires him to employ a network of alarm clocks whenever he is expected to be anywhere in the morning.
The story that was retold Tuesday was from his stint in the ECHL, when his team travelled by bus and when players stretched out in the aisles for a chance to catch at least a little nap before the end of a long trip.
“He’s a very heavy sleeper, a very heavy sleeper,” Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford said. “They’d get in from a road trip at four o’clock in the morning and have the bus unpacked, but no Quickie. He’d be asleep underneath the seats – wouldn’t have even heard the guys unloading the bus.”
Quick suggested the story might not be entirely accurate, but only sheepishly, and admitted his difficulty with deep sleep provided one of the wake-up calls that helped him achieve what he has this year. Just two years removed from playing in the wilds of the ECHL, the 24-year-old has earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team headed to Vancouver next month, and has earned one of the heaviest workloads in the NHL.
He has logged the second-most minutes in the league, trailing only Martin Brodeur. And while his goals-against average (2.60) and save percentage (.905) might not have been as sparkling as they could have been, he improved to 28 wins after the Kings beat Toronto 5-3 Tuesday. It’s one of the big reasons the Kings hold a spot on the right side of the Western Conference’s playoff divide.
“You sleep through a couple of practices, you learn from it,” Quick said, smiling. “Now, I have two or three alarm clocks set every morning.”
He logged nearly 2,500 minutes in his first full season with the Kings last year, a total he has already surpassed this season. The Kings, as a result, held sixth spot in the conference heading into play on Tuesday.
“He’s worked hard,” Ranford said. “He’s always had the athletic ability, but it was just basically trying to reel that in a little bit and get some control in his game. He’s worked hard at it. He’s been a great pupil and a great kid to work with.”
Ranford, a two-time Stanley Cup champion, works as Quick’s technical advisor, and as a mentor. He focuses on the approach to the game, ensuring his young pupil maintains his attention to detail – a necessity that sometimes faded during Quick’s rapid ascent.
“He’d have success in a game, enjoy that success and then kind of get off the gameplan that gave him that success,” Ranford said. “And when things were going well, he became loosey-goosey in practice, instead of realizing that there’s got to be that constant attention to detail. That’s just part of the maturing process.”
Quick was one of three goaltenders named to the U.S. Olympic team earlier this month, and will likely spend most of his time in Vancouver watching Ryan Miller backstop the team. Tim Thomas is expected to be the backup and, without much time for practice or pre-game skates, Quick isn’t expected to be very busy.
“I’m very impressed with him,” U.S. coach Ron Wilson said. “And, hey, you never know what happens in a short tournament.”
Quick, whose Olympic mask was delivered to the Air Canada Centre Tuesday, is eager for the trip.
“It will be quite an experience, just playing with the best in the country and playing against some of the best in the world,” he said. “Just the experience in general, being at the Olympics, with all the other athletes, too, will be interesting.”
Quick, meanwhile, has worked hard to make his mornings less interesting. After sleeping through a scheduled breakfast meeting with an assistant coach a few seasons ago – which led to a brief demotion – he has taken to using more than one alarm clock at home and on the road.
He had his own hotel room in Toronto, and said he was relying not just on his cellphone, but also on a call from the front desk.
“I try to set the alarm clock every night at 7:30 when we play a home game,” Kings head coach Terry Murray said with a smile. “It goes off, and it’s time to start.”