Work Visa Issues Cost Chevy Spot On NHL Bench

(above) DU Alum Marc Cheverie will begin next season in the AHL


by Glenn MacDonald

Red tape prevented Marc Cheverie from appearing in a Florida Panthers uniform over the weekend.

The 23-year-old goaltender from Cole Harbour was supposed to be the backup to Scott Clemmensen in the Panthers’ home-and-home series Saturday and Sunday with the Tampa Bay Lightning. But Cheverie didn’t get his U.S. work visa in time, so he had to watch from the press box.

"Unfortunately the Immigration Department doesn’t work on the weekends," Cheverie said from high above the ice at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa during a phone interview Saturday evening.

"It’s pretty awesome to be with the team," he added. "It’s a pretty nice lifestyle they have here, I’ll say that much. I could get used to this, especially in Florida."

The Panthers were playing out the string with a weekend series against the cross-state rival Lightning. Florida dropped both games, 4-3 in a shootout Saturday and 3-1 at home on Sunday.

"It’s kind of a weird situation," said Cheverie, who signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Panthers last week after three years with the University of Denver Pioneers. "(The Panthers) are out of the playoffs, it’s their last two games and it’s against a team that’s also out of the playoffs. But it’s still pretty cool to see how they go about their business.

"And I’m living the NHL lifestyle even though I’m not playing, so it’s pretty cool," he added with a laugh.

Of course, Cheverie would rather have played on the weekend — if not with the Panthers, then with his university team.

The Pioneers, with 13 players on the roster who were drafted by NHL teams, were ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division 1 for most of this season. But the fourth-seeded Rochester Institute of Technology, playing its first-ever NCAA tournament game at the Division I level, upset the Pioneers 2-1 in the East Regional championship.

It marked Denver’s third consecutive first-round loss in the NCAA tournament and second in a row as the No. 1 seed.

So instead of playing in this past weekend’s NCAA Frozen Four championship in Detroit, Cheverie had to watch — from a TV monitor in the same press box — as the Boston College Eagles blanked the Wisconsin Badgers 5-0 in Saturday’s final.

"We had a chance to play both of those teams this year," a somewhat dejected Cheverie said. "They were two good teams who deserved to be there. But it’s still a bitter pill. It could have easily been us."

Despite Denver’s demoralizing demise, Cheverie posted a stellar season, statistically speaking. He led all NCAA Division 1 goalies in victories (24), save percentage (.937) and shutouts (six), posted a 24-4-3 overall mark and was named player of the year in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Cheverie was also selected as one of the top 10 candidates for the 2010 Hobey Baker Award, honouring college hockey’s most outstanding player. But he failed to join Robb Stauber and Buffalo Sabres star Ryan Miller as the only goalies to win the Hobey Baker.

"It was a huge honor," Cheverie said of being shortlisted for the award. "I didn’t expect to win; there were only two goalies that have ever won.

"I think Ryan Miller screwed everyone else over," he joked.

"All those awards were all an honor. But I would have traded any of them for a national championship."

Now that the Panthers’ season is over, Cheverie, a finance major, will return to the University of Denver next week to finish his degree. He has fond memories of college life and the hockey team.

"It was definitely the best three years of my life," he said. "I met a lot of good friends and I couldn’t have been treated any better. I have nothing but great things to say about it. It was awesome, the best time of my life.

"This year, obviously, it ended disappointingly. But we had a great team. I don’t think I’ll ever play with a team, outside the NHL, as good as that — a college team that has 13 NHL draft picks on their roster. It was unheard of."

Cheverie was one of the lucky 13, having been chosen by Florida in the seventh round, 193rd overall, in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He is highly touted by the Panthers’ brass.

"He is a very talented prospect who we believe will have a bright future in our organization," Panthers general manager Randy Sexton said in a news release last week.

After graduation next month, Cheverie plans to return home to Nova Scotia for a couple of weeks before heading back to Florida in July. He will train this summer with Panthers goalie coach Rob Tallas and strength and conditioning coach Craig Slaunwhite, a Hatchet Lake native who graduated from Dalhousie.

"I think their plan for me is to play in the American Hockey League or at least compete for a spot in the AHL next year," Cheverie said. "Hopefully I’ll play well, and if an injury comes, they’ll be able to call me up. I think that’s their intention. I don’t think they plan on just burying me in the system. They have plans for me."

The Panthers are deep in goaltenders. Clemmensen and starter Tomas Vokoun are under contract for next season, as is AHLer Alexander Salak. Swedish netminder Jacob Markstrom is regarded as the team’s top prospect.

"Goalies always take longer to develop," Cheverie said.

"I knew the (Panthers’) depth in goal would be an issue. I had the opportunity to go to free agency but I turned it down to sign with Florida. After talking to the GM, I felt this was the best opportunity, regardless of any other offers I would have."


Anonymous said...

woulda, coulda, shoulda.....flameout

Anonymous said...

Marc needs to go down to Marina Mile, buy a boat and name it "Sea Sea Sux". trust me, he will adapt quite quickly to the Miami-Lauderdale scene this summer. LOTS of T & A