Marty Turco had stopped waiting for the phone to ring.
After going several months without work, it appeared as though the NHL had moved on without him. So he decided to move on as well.
The veteran goaltender joined EC Red Bull Salzburg for the stretch drive in the Austrian league and didn’t so much as cast an eye back towards North America. At least not until the Boston Bruins produced a one-year contract earlier this week.
With that, Turco jumped on a plane.
“To play hockey is the most important thing, there’s nothing like it,” he said hours after returning from Europe. “And to play in the NHL is a special thing. You can never take it for granted—I never have—but I certainly won’t again.”
Now 36, Turco’s been an extended a small life line. The one-year deal is essentially a one-month deal since he can’t suit up in the playoffs because his signing came after the Feb. 27 trade deadline.
But he’s not about to complain.
Without a chance to get his name etched on the Stanley Cup and only a month’s worth of salary to collect, this comeback isn’t about glory or fortune. It’s just one more chance to live out a boyhood dream.
“I assumed it was not coming,” said Turco. “At moments you can hang your head and sit by the phone. I’ve had pseudo moments like that. But I’ve practised and skated all year with the goal of playing in the NHL again.”
Last season didn’t go as planned. Turco struggled after signing a free-agent deal with the Chicago Blackhawks in the summer of 2010 and posted the worst numbers of his career: an 11-11-3 record with a .897 save percentage and 3.02 goals-against average.
Even still, agent Kurt Overhardt remained confident another NHL opportunity would come.
Turco stayed in shape by working out with his hometown Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and played for Canada’s Spengler Cup team in December. He also helped Salzburg win a club team tournament before rejoining that squad again in late January.
The call from the Bruins came after the organization lost goaltenders Tuukka Rask (lower abdomen/groin strain) and Anton Khudobin (wrist) to injury in a matter of days. Turco will serve as a backup to Tim Thomas.
“I want to help these guys out in whatever fashion possible,” he said.
After clearing waivers on Wednesday, he joined the Bruins at practice and faced shots from the likes of captain Zdeno Chara. He took in Thursday night’s game against Buffalo from the bench while Thomas made his 47th appearance of the season.
Boston has typically tried to limit Thomas to 55 regular-season games, meaning that Turco could see a fair bit of action over the next month. The Bruins still have another 16 games remaining on their schedule.
“The fact a goalie like (Turco) is available after the trade deadline, we’re fortunate to a certain degree,” said general manager Peter Chiarelli.
Turco intends to make the most of whatever opportunity he’s ends up getting.
He’s authored a pretty impressive career already with 273 wins in 538 NHL games and a spot on Canada’s 2006 Olympic team, among many other achievements. But the most important thing to him now is the fact the final chapter of his playing career has yet to be written.
“I wouldn’t just come for the sake of coming,” said Turco. “I’ve come here for a reason. I’m very lucky that they even asked.”