Still, with every
swing of a nine-iron, Osgood hoped Holland would suggest returning to Detroit
as a goalie, but Osgood resisted the growing urge to propose it. Holland talked
around the issue one day by suggesting Osgood seek out Stan Matwijiw, then a
goalie coach at the University of Michigan who Holland believed taught the
butterfly style well. Osgood agreed and contacted Matwijiw immediately. Two
weeks after that, Osgood began the process of reinventing his style. Holland
kept his distance but got reports from Matwijiw. "When they first started
working together, Chris was three steps behind the kids technically,"
Holland recalls, "but it didn't take long for him to start beating the
odds. Tough odds. Realistically, his career had definitely been on a downward
The coach spoke
highly of Osgood's willingness to learn, and in August '05 Osgood signed with
Detroit to be Manny Legace's backup for less than a million. (Hasek had signed
a one-year deal with the Senators.) With a revamped technique, a newfound
confidence and an impressive 20-6-5 record, Osgood was contorting and
comporting himself differently. Before a game the old Osgood would recoil into
an impenetrable world of mental imagery, a reclusive and grumpy man trying not
to give up bad goals in the locker room. Now he took a new approach. "I
learned how to relax," Osgood says. "I didn't want to be a guy
teammates couldn't talk to. Once in a while I'd start telling jokes, just
trying to save my intensity for the actual game."
CALL HIM THE MAYOR of Plymouth, the sleepy Michigan town of 9,000 where his
backyard has a hockey oval that freezes over during the winter. The nondescript
landscape fits the demeanor of a guy who has always eschewed points of style.
His mask is a plain red model, already dented and worn. Ask him his fantasy
non-hockey job, and he volunteers an alternate life as a bullpen catcher for
the neighboring Tigers. Not an ace or a closer? "I'm O.K. without the
attention," he says.
Ask him if
personal records matter to him, and the man with 279 victories in a Detroit
uniform will give you an unusually frank response that also speaks to his
respect for Red Wings history. "I'd love to break [Terry] Sawchuk's record
for career wins ," he says. "People around this locker room
associate his name with excellence."
had long loomed over the Wings' crease like a thick cloud. Fans chewed up
goalies such as Tim Cheveldae and Bob Essensa like wads of Bazooka, and
Osgood's peach fuzz came off like thin skin a little too much for the
octopus-tossing balcony denizens. It is testament to his persistence and
adaptability that his career numbers are now Hall of Fame-worthy. His 363
career regular-season wins are 15th on the alltime list, his career winning
percentage of .631 ranks highest of any goalie with at least 300 wins, and he
has had a winning record in every one of his 14 NHL seasons. "It's
amazing," says Wings captain Nick Lidstrom, "that somebody could
approach the Hall of Fame so quietly without too many people really
Maybe they are. In
the stands at Joe Louis Arena these days, signs now read IN OZ WE TRUST and THE
WIZARD OF OZ. The Tigers' bullpen catcher can exhale.