“It is never too late to be what you might have been,” the motivational quote goes.
Or, in the case of Jonathan Quick, what he once was.
That’s the hope, at least. That a goalie such as Quick can rediscover a level of play that has escaped him for years now. That the Golden Knights might actually have a decision to make in regards to him when others regain their health.
Quick started his first game for the Knights on Sunday and turned in a 4-3 win against Montreal before 18,049 at T-Mobile Arena, a first since being traded from Columbus (via, really, the Kings) on Thursday.
Look. Competition is never a bad thing when handled correctly. It should make everyone better.
The Knights might have landed Quick as merely an insurance policy and backup to Adin Hill as Logan Thompson and Laurent Brossoit recover on injured reserve from lower-body injuries. Odds favor it being the only reason Quick is in Las Vegas.
But never discount the power of motivation. Quick should have an arena’s worth right now.
Something to prove
He led the Knights onto the ice Sunday in a different jersey than over his first 16 seasons as an NHL player, no longer sporting the colors and logo of the Kings.
He led them — no doubt — still stinging a bit from being moved by the only franchise he ever knew. Doesn’t matter how long you’ve been around. There is always something to prove.
He has that challenge now, even at age 37. His numbers are among the worst in the NHL, and long gone is his elite play of two Stanley Cup championships.
And, yes, perhaps the Knights fixing what has led to such a reality over the next 20 or so games seems unlikely. But athletes, especially those who have won championships and reached the individual pinnacles of their sport, often have a way of proving others wrong.
What an advantage it might be should Quick find such a truth.
Having viable options is always a positive.
“I felt pretty comfortable from the get-go,” he said. “Just needed to get out there … I’m a goalie. Stop the puck.”
He did so quite well in the first two periods, turning away all 16 shots aimed by the Canadiens. He was also protected well by those defensemen in front.
I mean, Quick was cruising.
But even bad teams — see Montreal — can push things. The three goals allowed weren’t all the fault of Quick. Maybe only when he was beaten by Alex Belzile to make the score 4-2. Quick also wasn’t protected nearly as well the final 20 minutes.
“I thought (Quick) played well,” Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said. “He made some key saves for us. I liked his game. He got the ‘W.’ At the end of the day, that’s important. Made a big save there with 25 seconds left on a one-timer. Got across. That’s the save we needed, and he got it.”
The arena was dark, and the music was blaring and the starting lineup for the Knights was being introduced to the frenzied Sunday afternoon gathering. And when it came time for the goalie’s spot and Quick’s name was broadcast over the loudspeaker, a robust cheer rose to the rafters.
“A fun building to play in,” Quick said. “These fans are great. We’ve known that since the team came in. Definitely, a warm reception.”
It has to still sting a bit, the fact Los Angeles sent him packing after so many years and with just this season remaining on his contract. But maybe that’s all the inspiration he needs to rediscover a level of skill that has been absent for so long.
Crazier things have happened in sports.
But maybe he’s just in Las Vegas until everyone is good to go. Maybe that’s all this is.
Until then, let’s see what sort of play motivation can deliver.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.