Professional hockey goalies have always been considered somewhat of a different breed and Ben Scrivens likely wouldn’t argue with that thought too much. After all, he does stand in front of pucks traveling upwards of 100 mph night after night in order to earn a paycheque, but at the same time, the graduate of the Spruce Grove Saints (27-12-2 in the 2005-06 season) junior A hockey program likely wouldn’t have it any other way.
Especially since he now earns his living under the sunny skies of Los Angeles, California.
Needless to say, the guy that grew up in Spruce Grove playing in the minor hockey system said he is loving life in LA, although he’s not exactly living the dream as some would think. You see, there’s no convertible sports car for Scrivens to ride around in. No luxurious beachfront home. No high-flying social scene. No, he remains to this day the guy that left Spruce Grove for Cornell University before making his way into the NHL as a free agent in the Toronto Maple Leafs system.
So about living the dream life of a jet-setting athlete in the glamour world of Los Angeles, Scrivens laughed and said that wasn’t the case with him.
“I like to try and stay humble as much as I can,” he said of life in the star-studded city. “I’m still driving my ’98 Chev with Alberta plates on it! I like to think I’m still the same guy who left the Grove … but maybe working on my tan a little bit, I guess.”
In his first season with the Kings, and second full season in the NHL, Scrivens said he wasn’t really caught off-guard by the trade from the Leafs in exchange for Jonathan Bernier during the off-season.
“Part of playing in a market like Toronto is there are trade rumours daily. You kind of become numb and desensitized to it. They’re so frequent and often you never seem to get a break from them so you end up just ignoring them all,” he said on the phone from LA.
“To say I was completely blindsided would be a lie because I’d heard the rumours of Bernier wanting to come to Toronto. The day it happened, it was a surprise because there were so many rumours and nothing had happened that you start to think nothing was going to.
“That being said,” Scrivens, who is never at a loss for words, continued, “I don’t think anybody, unless you’re asking for a trade, really knows for sure that it’s going to come. It’s just the nature of professional sports. You never know unless you have a no-trade clause how things are going to go. I was surprised but at the same time I like to keep an open mind with most stuff and with my hockey career so far I didn’t see it as a negative in any way.”
The one thing the trade did for him, the goaltender who lit up the NHL a few weeks back with his sparkling play noted, was it let him get away from the media glare in Toronto which with the Leafs can be relentless. However, he pointed out, he didn’t mind the life in Toronto at all.
“For me to say ‘yeah, the trade was good thing,’ implies I was in a bad situation in Toronto which I don’t really feel like. I’m extremely grateful for my time in Toronto. They allowed me to cut my teeth and get a foothold in the league and start to establish myself as an NHL player. I don’t think leaving Toronto was a great thing but that being said, if I was going to get traded out of Toronto, LA is a great place to go.
“Obviously the lifestyle here is second to none. It’s like 20 (C) degrees above zero here right now (in the Grove at the same time it was minus-36 with the wind chill). I’m driving around in a tee shirt, so life’s pretty good away from the rink down here.”
As of Dec. 11 life was pretty good inside the rink for the Grove native as well. To that point he’d compiled a 6-2-4 record and led the NHL with a save percentage of .943. He was tied for the league high for shutouts with three and was second in the NHL with a GAA of 1.56. He hadn’t given up more than three goals (once) in any of his starts for the Kings this year.
To date this year has been a great one for the goalie but he knows that he must put the work in to have success in the big leagues.
“It’s an on-going process,” he noted of this season in particular. “You’re always trying to get better and getting a chance to work with this team, they’re very sound defensively and they don’t make too many mistakes in the D-zone. They possess the puck a lot. All that stuff makes my job easier.”
Scrivens credits a great deal of his success this year to a former Stanley Cup winner with the Edmonton Oilers who now acts as his goalie coach.
“They’ve got a great coach in Billy Ranford. I never saw him play … he was a little before my time. I saw Tommy Salo, Cujo, those were the days I remember more vividly (in Spruce Grove). I think the last time they won was ’90 (in front of Ranford in goal) and I was four, so it was a little before my time. That being said, the legend lives on. It’s been a lot of fun working with Billy.
“I just want to learn as much as I can from him, play as many games as I can, and try to get better. I’m only into my second (full) year in my NHL career and hopefully I’ve got a few left but that’s only going to happen if you continually try to get better.”
What any player wants in the year prior to entering the free agent market is a strong season behind them and that’s exactly what Scrivens has been putting together this year, the final year of his present contract. While he knows many teams could come calling if he continues at his present pace, he hasn’t put much thought into where he’d prefer to end up playing, he said.
“You try not to think of things like that too much, you don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” he said of parlaying his play this year into a big dollar contract next.
“You have to focus one game at a time. It sounds cliché but that’s really the way I’ve found I have success. You can’t go too overboard with one game and what it comes down to, my agent is the guy who is going to deal with all the free agency stuff. I guess in the end the decision will be mine but that’s what I have him for, why I pay him, to handle all the talk and I can just focus on hockey at this point.”
Of course he had to be asked if he’d entertain an offer from the Oilers were one to come, considering his former minor league coach with the Toronto Marlies, Dallas Eakins, is the bench boss there now. Scrivens said he’d consider it but wouldn’t comment one way or the other right now about ending up in blue and orange next year.
“Obviously I’d consider it. It’s nice to play at home. I did with the Saints there and it was a lot of fun, a little bit different feel, but that being said when the time comes my agent and I, and my family, will investigate all the different options we have. We’ll make the decision that’s best for myself, best for my family. It will be a decision that I feel gives me the best chance to have success in the NHL. I won’t say no and I won’t say yes; it will all depend on how things go down over the next few months.”
In closing, Scrivens says he stays tuned to how the Saints are doing and is proud of their success since he skated away to bigger and better things in college and then the professional end of the game.
“Obviously, I pay attention to the Saints and I know they’ve had great runs the last couple of years and unfortunately fell short a couple of times on the national stage. It’s only a matter of time before they break through. It’s great to see kids in Spruce Grove and the team there doing so well and I’m a proud alumnus, for sure.”
And with that, one can only imagine Ben Scrivens, a kid living the dream of playing pro hockey in LA driving off into the sunshine, albeit in a four-door sedan rather than a high-powered sports car.
By Gord Montgomery, Spruce Grove Examiner