A Spanish "Carey Price" with Quebec inspiration

Published November 24, 2021 at 1:44 PM

Do you know the name Ander Alcaine? Probably not. And yet, this goalie could very well have become the very first Spaniard to make it in the Bettman Circuit a few years ago.

Hailing from the small town of Jaca, one of the few Spanish municipalities where hockey surpasses soccer, Alcaine fell in love with hockey at the age of five, attending a practice of a small local club. However, there was a rather odd reason why he chose the goalie position.

"In my first team, our coach was a Russian. I couldn't understand a word he was saying and I knew he was making the players skate who were repeating him. So I opted for the goalie position," he said.

He was then inspired by two Quebec hockey legends, Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur, to model his game and eventually become dominant at the highest levels in his country and on the national team. Shortly after being hired by the French club of Briançon, France, Alcaine was particularly noticed during a hockey camp organized by the current Panthers goaltending coach, François Allaire.

"In the senior group, there were five or six goalies who played in the National Hockey League, among others. But Ander was consistently at the top of the pack," he explained.

A dream that turns into a disaster

Invited, in 2012, by this same Allaire to participate in the Toronto Maple Leafs' rookie camp, Alcaine thus came very close to realizing his dream, but a bad set of circumstances ended this unprecedented journey.

Because of the heat, there are no indoor or outdoor rinks in Spain during the summer. Alcaine had to train only in the gym during the summer before camp, which obviously put him behind the other Leafs rookies.

In addition, Alcaine's equipment belonged to the Briançon club, which decided to keep it. So Alcaine showed up at camp with brand new equipment. A far from ideal situation, especially for a goalie.

Finally, in September 2012, the goalie learned that his mother's condition with cancer had worsened significantly. He then decided to put his career on hold and return home, which would definitely put an end to his chances of making it to the NHL.

Announcing his retirement from professional hockey in April 2020, at the age of 28, the man who was nicknamed the "Spanish Carey Price" has now become a dentist, after completing his studies.

"He would have had the talent for the NHL, for sure. He also had the size. In fact, he had everything. But coming to a country where hockey is a religion when you've never seen anything but Spain is a lot harder than it looks. And he also made decisions that took him away from hockey. The important thing is that he is happy today", concluded the experienced François Allaire about Alcaine.

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