KENNEWICK -- Seeing your name come up on the screen during the Western Hockey League bantam draft is exciting. An honor even.
But what does it mean when you are the next-to-last-pick?
When you are Ty Rimmer, you thank the Brandon Wheat Kings for choosing you, pull on your mask and continue to stop pucks.
"I never thought I wasn't good enough. I played in the Alberta Cup (an all-star bantam tournament for players in the province)," said Rimmer, taken 303rd overall in the 2007 draft. "I was 5-foot-3 at the time, and I knew size was a big deal. You can teach a guy to play, but not to grow. Fortunately, I hit my growth spurt and kept on playing."
And his hard work has paid off.
The Tri-City Americans veteran goaltender, now 6 feet and 170 pounds, leads the WHL in shutouts (5), goals against average (2.13) and save percentage (.930).
Not bad for a guy who last season toiled away in Prince George before an offseason trade brought him to Kennewick.
In 43 games with the Cougars, Rimmer was 17-20-0-2 with a 3.29 GAA and a .899 save percentage.
"I was excited," Rimmer said of the trade to Tri-City. "I was ecstatic about going to a winning organization. I knew from Day 1 we had a great group of guys. I always knew I had the ability, but the big thing in hockey is finding the right opportunity, the right combination of players, coaches and the city. It has led to a great start here. I'm excited to see where we can take this."
Rimmer, 19, is 19-7-0-1 this season and has lost one start at Toyota Center -- 4-3 in a shootout last Saturday to Kamloops.
"I love this place," he said. "I feel comfortable here. Not saying the novelty has worn off, but it's nice to have good numbers. But it's not about me. It's about the big picture. I try to improve every game and every day, and I'm looking forward to a big playoff run."
Rimmer's desire to improve has not been lost on the Americans.
"We recognized that the first week in training camp," Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. "The exciting thing about him is he wants to be a goaltender beyond this league."
Tonight, the Americans will be in Rimmer's hometown of Edmonton, Alberta, to take on the Eastern Conference-leading Edmonton Oil Kings.
"When I go home, there will be 20-some family members, plus friends, at the game," Rimmer said. "I'm excited. When I went home at Christmas, it was great to get pats on the back. Everybody keeps tabs. Family is first. They are there for me."
As are his Tri-City teammates, especially fellow goaltender Eric Comrie. The two have backstopped the Americans to the top of the U.S. Division with a 34-11-0-1 record.
"We feed off each other," Rimmer said. "We are competitive. He's a talented young goalie. We've strung together success here, and we aren't overplayed. We rotate, and the coaches pick the appropriate games for us to play."
Hiller said there is no set formula as to who starts which game.
"We discuss it," Hiller said. "How they have done against a certain team, and we don't want to keep either out too long between starts."
Hiller also appreciates how well Rimmer and Comrie, 16, get along.
"Their bond is special," Hiller said. "Ty was mature when we got him, and he had experience as a starter in Prince George. He has understood that this is a team game. They are two goalies with different styles. They push each other, and Eric shows him respect."
When Rimmer first started playing hockey, he lined up at forward, but his godfather, Grant Fuhr, a childhood friend of Rimmer's father, played a role in his move to goalie.
"Having him around and seeing him on SportsCenter transitioned onto the ice," Rimmer said of the Hockey Hall of Fame goalie's influence. "It was a smooth transition. He coached me when I was 12 in peewee. That was helpful."
Rimmer's father, Barry, and Fuhr grew up together in Spruce Grove, Alberta, and have remained good friends. Today, they co-coach the Knights of Columbus Squires (bantam AAA) in Edmonton.
"I don't see him as much as I used to," Rimmer said of Fuhr. "I've moved away from home the last three seasons, but it's good to have a guy like that in your corner."
In some respects, Rimmer followed in Fuhr's footsteps to the WHL.
Fuhr played two seasons for the old Victoria Cougars, who left Vancouver Island for Prince George in 1994.
"When I got to Prince George, I made the connection pretty quick," Rimmer said. "I have a mural of him on my Prince George mask."
Rimmer has been weaving threads of his life into his game for years. There is no Fuhr on his mask this season, but he performs a pregame ritual that he has done since playing for the Bonnyville Pontiacs of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
"I take a squirt of water, say a prayer for the safety of the players and the game, make the sign of the holy spirit and spray the water," Rimmer said. "Then, it's game time."
* Annie Fowler: 509-582-1574; email@example.com