Features | 3/28/2013 12:39:43 PM | Alex Beilman
Being the backup to anybody is never a glamorous position. Whether it is the backup goaltender or the understudy in a Broadway production, the person behind the starter never gets the glory.
This is something that Buffalo Bandits goaltender Kurtis Wagar is ok with, and backup goaltender is a role that he embraces. Mostly because, it’s a job he wasn’t sure he was going to have coming into the season.
A seven-year veteran of the NLL, Wagar, like numerous other players has bounced around from team to team. He started his career as a backup in Edmonton two years. After that he played two more years for the Titans franchise (one year in New York and another in Orlando) and then spent two years with Philadelphia.
In that time he had never played more than 75 minutes, maxing out a 74:25 of play in 2010.
After the 2012 season, Wagar’s future in the league seemed uncertain. He had trouble garnering any contract offers. It was an opportunity at the Buffalo Bandits training camp that kept his career going.
“It’s a different experience for me. In the past, you got to camp and you’re expected to be on the team,” Wagar said. “This is one I had to work for. I took a different approach to the training camp and just worked my butt off.”
That chance would be all he needed. He beat out Angus Goodleaf in training camp for the final goaltending spot behind Anthony Cosmo on the Bandits roster.
“Training camp, you want to show how bad you want it. Whenever you get a chance to compete with other good goalies, it makes you a better goalie,” Wagar said. “I didn’t have any expectations when I came in. I just knew if I kept doing what I was doing I would probably be successful.”
Despite being new to the team and not knowing many of his new teammates, he quickly became friends with them. Wagar is a fun-loving, outgoing person and that helped him endear himself to his new team.
“When you’re a backup goalie it’s your job to loosen the guys up. You have a different role,” Wagar said. “I gotta earn their respect before I can get into the old routine.”
As a backup, Wagar knew he wouldn’t see a lot of time on the floor during games. Or at least that’s what he thought. Cosmo had some struggles early, and that gave Wagar an opportunity to endear himself to the fans next.
“It’s always good to get the rust off right away. Getting that confidence, and the confidence of the guys on the team,” Wagar said. “I thought it was beneficial and it worked out in the end.”
Wagar has played a total of 136 minutes this season, by far a career-high for him. He’s also earned his second career victory this season against the Minnesota Swarm. Despite getting more playing time than he’s used to, Wagar has been sure that his eyes don’t get bigger than his stomach.
“You can’t go into a role like a backup and have a chip on your shoulder,” Wagar said. “If I do get more, I take it and change my role.”
Wagar also plays a fairly important role while he’s on the bench. He operates the defensive door on the bench, quarterbacking the changes as players come on and off.
“If someone wanted to try the can go ahead. It’s a little stressful,” Wagar said with a grin on his face. “I have a lot of experience so it kind of comes naturally.”
Whether it’s coming in for relief or opening and closing the defensive door on the bench, Wagar is happy to be where he is right now.
“You embrace what you have,” Wagar said. “That’s what I do. I know my role on the team and I don’t expect anymore.”