RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The newest Hurricanes goalie knows how fortunate he is.
“I just got a ticket to the dance,” said 24-year-old Jack LaFontaine.
It’s not often that a college hockey star goes directly to the NHL, but that’s exactly what LaFontaine will do after signing a one-year deal with the goalie-strapped Hurricanes. LaFontaine decided to leave the University of Minnesota midseason to join an organization in dire need of help.
“Through the organization right now, we have two healthy goalies. And now with Jack, we’ll have three,” said Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell. “We think we’re a serious contender and the last thing you want to do is get caught short in goal.”
Hurricanes backup goalie Antii Raanta is out with an upper-body injury and both AHL goalies are injured, as well. That misfortune provided a golden opportunity for LaFontaine.
“I made a decision on this in a span of 20 hours,” LaFontaine said. “Looking at it through a hockey lense, looking at it through a life-lense, I felt really good about it. And again, I feel really good about my game right now and I feel I can contribute to the team in any way I can.”
The plan is for LaFontaine to hit the ice for the first time with the ‘Canes at Wednesday’s morning practice. The NCAA’s reigning top goalie will be placed on the team’s taxi squad and could spend the entire year there as he acclimates to the NHL game.
“It’s been an emotional rollercoaster,” LaFontaine said of the past 48 hours. “I’ve obviously worked my entire life for this opportunity. This opportunity doesn’t come around very often.”
He’s right about that. It took a perfect storm to lead LaFontaine from his teammates at Minnesota to the NHL team that drafted him in 2016.
“This opportunity is special in the sense that I’ve been working towards the goal of playing in the NHL since about the age of seven,” LaFontaine said. “All my actions, all my sacrifices, all my work has been to the common goal of playing in the NHL.”
It’s not exactly the route LaFontaine expected to take on his way to hockey’s highest level. But then again, an opportunity like this doesn’t come around often.