Not only did it come as a surprise to Josh Unice, he didn’t believe it when he heard it.
For the 23-year-old Mustangs goalie, the invitation to join the Toronto Maple Leafs training camp for two days came right after Western’s game against the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Ridgebacks, roughly two weeks ago. In that match, Unice turned away 24 out of 26 shots.
“To be honest with you, I have no idea how it happened. I was just playing in the game, and our coach came in the locker room after and asked me to call a guy at the Maple Leafs. I thought it was a joke. As it turned out, it was a shock,” Unice said.
“It (the experience) has lit a fire under me again. The Leafs are looked at as Canada’s hockey team. It was humbling that out of everybody, they asked me to come up with them.”
What’s more, he added, the invitation he got to train with the Leafs just goes to show the prominence of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS).
“A lot of people feel CIS hockey is overlooked by the NHL (National Hockey League). The fact that they invited me, that they know how I’m doing and our team as a whole, it is definitely eye-opening,” Unice continued.
The Mustangs rank third in the country and first in the province. Prior to his stint at the Leafs camp, Unice had led the team to a 15-game winning streak.
“This was a great opportunity for me. The best part was the way they treat their players – first class. It was nice that everybody was so welcoming, especially the goalie coach who let me do stuff with (James) Reimer and (Ben) Scrivens.”
During camp practice, he took shots from the likes of Dion Phaneuf, Mikhail Grabovoski and Phil Kessel.
Unice, a 2007 third-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, has 92 Ontario Hockey League games under his belt, having played for both the Kitchener Rangers and the Windsor Spitfires from 2007-10.
As for future plans, he says he is playing it by ear.
“I am going to focus on this season and go on from there,” Unice said.