As a Massachusetts native, Mike Condon grew up watching Boston University’s John Curry, who played for the Terriers from 2004-07. Around the same time, Condon saw Joey MacDonald man the crease for the Bruins.
As an AHL goaltender himself, Condon has played with and against them.
“To be able to share the ice with [MacDonald] and share goaltending duties it’s pretty surreal and it’s pretty cool,” Condon said.
On Thursday, Condon extended his dream of playing hockey by signing a two-year extension with Montreal.
“It was a really surreal moment to be able to have another two years of hockey. It really [hasn’t] set it in quite yet either,” Condon said.
He joined the Canadiens after spending four seasons wearing orange and black. As a Tiger, Condon earned more played time each season, and finished his senior campaign with a career-high .923 save percentage over 24 games.
“It takes a lot of energy to wake up every day to go to a lift, go to four classes, go to practice, come home, write a 10 page paper, wake up and do the same thing for four years straight,” Condon said. “I think college hockey made my mental toughness very strong.”
After signing as a free agent with Montreal in 2013, Condon is in the middle of his second professional season. With the Hamilton Bulldogs, he has played in 26 games this season. The 24-year-old has a.931 save percentage, which is tied for third amongst AHL goalkeepers.
“I’m happy it’s over with and now I can focus on helping this team get to the playoffs,” Condon said.
The Black Aces
Last year during the NHL playoffs, Mike Condon watched Canadien backup Peter Budaj stay after Montreal practice had ended, taking extra shots.
“He’s been in the league for I don’t know how many years, but he’s certainly a veteran. He was out there after practice working incredibly hard, taking so many extra shots, he was out there early and this is a guy who was stablished himself and probably didn’t even need to do that,” Condon said.
“I was like, wow I thought I was working hard but this guy, he’s in his 30s and he’s working harder than I am,” Condon said. “It definitely raised the bar in terms of my expectations in terms of working.”
That month, Condon was recalled by the Canadiens following Hamilton’s season, joining Montreal’s Black Aces squad.
“It was an unbelievable experience to be in New York traveling with the team, just to see what it’s like in the NHL what the life is like to be on the plane, to be in the locker room when the game is going on,” Condon said.
It’s the closest Condon has come to experiencing the next level, but the 24-year-old has tasted the NHL talent at the AHL level, playing with and against former NHLers.
“The shot speed is the greatest thing, learning how fast those shots come from NHL shooters,” Condon said.
As an AHL netminder, Condon also faces NHL players sent down for conditioning stints.
“[When] you make a save on him, it just gives you a little more confidence to know that okay, he’s not just an AHL guy, he’s an NHL player. I can compete and hopefully succeed,” Condon said.
The pro life
After finishing his senior season at Princeton, Condon jumped to the ECHL with the Ontario Reign, where he played in four games. He spent most of the 2013-14 season, his first full professional campaign, with the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL.”
“My life was a lot easier, it was a lot less stress than there was at Princeton,” Condon said.
“It was easier in that regard but the most difficult thing probably just on ice speed of the game, the shot speed, everyone can shoot at this level and just the schedule.”
In 2013, Condon was loaned to the Houston Aeros of the AHL, where he played in five games and a .919 save percentage. Condon also played in three postseason games, getting a look at both levels of minor league hockey.
“[The] AHL is certainly a lot faster because in the AHL there’s four lines, you’re allowed to dress four lines but in the [ECHL] you can only dress three,” Condon said.
“The East Coast game is a lot slower, guys have a lot more time, plays develop a little bit slower and there’s a lot more break downs in the [ECHL]. The game up here is a lot faster because guys have more energy, guys are more rested, they roll through four lines and it’s just that much more intense.”
The jump from college play meant double the games and a more intense schedule. At Princeton, Condon had never played more than 24. In his first season at Wheeling, he manned the net in 39 contests of a 72-game schedule.
“It was just taking a game for what it’s worth and just trying to have fun every day and realizing that playing this game is a gift,” Condon said. “Even the worst day playing hockey is better than being in the office.”
Over the past two years and stints in the ECHL and AHL, Condon has worked on controlling his movement in the crease.
“In college I was sliding a lot, I [had] bad positioning, it was really just battling but now my games’ a lot more cerebral and efficient,” Condon said. I try to conserve my movements and stay poised and calm as long as possible. I think efficiency. I conserve my energy and I try to only move when I have to.”
After spending three games in Hamilton last season, Condon started this year with the AHL team. He was joined by Daniel Carr, Union’s all-time leading scorer.
“Dan also scored a lot of goals on me in college. … And I live with him too so I get reminded of his national championship every day,” Condon said.