Eric Comrie might not be a household name for those outside of Winnipeg, Edmonton, or Tri-City. The 25-year-old Winnipeg Jets goaltender is currently in his sixth professional hockey season and has just been named the Jets’ nominee for the 2020-21 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
“It’s special to me and it means a lot,” Comrie said on Monday. “For myself, I love the game of hockey and being recognized for that means a lot to me. I’m really happy to have the opportunity to represent the Jets in that award.”
That award is handed out annually to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.” Comrie, who has spent the majority of his career as a minor leaguer, has a vast appreciation for True North Sports + Entertainment, the coaching staffs of both the Manitoba Moose and the Winnipeg Jets, as well as the many teammates he has had the opportunity to skate alongside over his six-year career.
“It has a lot to do with the people in the organization,” he reflected. “It starts with our owner in Mark Chipman, and it goes down from there – Chevy, Zinger, Paul, even Pazzy down with the Moose – everyone has the same philosophy here that we are a family. We respect each other and we go to bat for each other. I think that’s a really big thing. It’s a special organization to be part of. Anyone that has ever played here feels the same way I do. Every time they come back here, they truly love and admire it.”
Despite finding himself buried deep within the netminding depth chart behind reigning Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck and regular backup Laurent Brossoit, Comrie was set to become the Jets’ ‘taxi squad’ goaltender from the start of the season. However, getting him into that place meant a couple trips through Waivers, AHL stints, a trade, a couple new cities and eventually a return trip to the Jets.
“It’s always difficult, it’s tough bouncing around,” Comrie said of the recent Waiver claims and trades. “It’s always nice to be liked and when you’re picked up off Waivers, someone is liking you. That’s always a good thing too. But it’s hard switching teams and not having a steady idea of where you’re going to be the next day. Never really unpacking because you’re kind of unsure where you’re going to be and every time I did unpack, I would end up somewhere else. So that was kind of the kiss of death right there. But it’s crazy, you start to doubt if you’re going to be there very long. You’re unsure of how long you’re going to be there. It’s the uncertainty that weighs on you more than anything else.”
It has certainly been a frustrating few years for Comrie. But luckily, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound goaltender has had a reliable crutch at his side through it all.
“My girlfriend is pretty good, she’s the one packing up all the time,” Comrie said of his partner Haley Forrest. “As soon as we get claimed, she knows before I do. She finds out on Twitter – I don’t really have Twitter or social media – so she finds out really fast. All of a sudden, there we go. She’s all packing up the house. She’s got it down pat. I think she got it down to 20 minutes, she can have me ready and out the door.”
Over the past two seasons, Comrie has gone from Winnipeg to Arizona to Detroit to Winnipeg to New Jersey to Winnipeg yet again. And despite all of his moves, the 25-year-old says the most difficulty doesn’t even fall on his own shoulders.
“It’s hardest on Haley,” he said. “It’s hardest on her and my dog (Jango) just because it’s hard to move around with them. For me, it’s easy. Especially now, it’s hard to describe it. Most seasons, even when I went last year to Arizona or Detroit, she could get out and meet the girls. But this year when we went to New Jersey, she was very isolated. She couldn’t get out and meet anybody. She was very alone and couldn’t see anybody. So that was very hard for her. It’s definitely a lot harder for her than it is for me.”
Through the year of ups and downs, Comrie has stayed grounded in himself, clinging to the hope that his skillset and personality will remain a fit with the Jets moving forward. Luckily for the Edmonton, AB. product, he also has an exceptional role model to look up to during times of difficulty.
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“My dad (Bill Comrie, founder of The Brick) always tells me this story of how he’s done well for himself in life and he’s come from very little and he made a very successful business with not very much,” Comrie said. “He did it with hard work, and he instilled that in me a long time ago how important it is to work hard and how important it is to be a good sport all of the time. My dad said it’s very important for us to always be very hardworking but respect the game a lot. I think that’s something you have to do if you want to be a good sport. You gave to just respect the game as much as you possibly can. It’s hard to say, but my dad did a really good job when we were young, really instilling that hard work and respecting the game aspect of our lives.”
Now going up against 30 other PHWA-selected nominees from each of the other NHL clubs, Comrie will certainly be a long-shot to win the Masterton, let alone be named as a finalist, but the impression has certainly been made with his nomination.
“He’s unrelenting in his positivity with everything that he’s been through this year,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said of Comrie’s demeanour. “It’s not just that he had to go through those things that he was nominated for, it’s the way that he handled his every day here. He’ll stay on the ice as long as you want. He’s got, ‘How you doing today, Eric?’ ‘Awesome, everything’s great.’ And he lives it. He’s just an incredibly positive person. In a most difficult situation he would have handled it and been a leader in that with our extra players. Because that’s a tough job those guys have this year. He’s out there every day going so hard that those guys are certainly drawn to him. He’s just a marvelous young man.”