By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
It’s an opportunity most only dream of, yet for former Dauphin Kings star goaltender Joe Caligiuri, the realization of playing among your heroes is something that still gives him the chills — even after more than a handful of outings in a Winnipeg Jets sweater.
“It is a lot of fun when you get the opportunity to go out here. If I am able to come I want to come,” said Caligiuri, who was filling in for Ondrej Pavelec who is away on Olympic duty. “You get to see what the best guys in the world are like; it’s a lot of fun and not a lot of people get to do it.”
You’d be hard-pressed to argue that the big league practice time isn’t a good thing for the former Brandon Wheat King, especially given the fact he and his Bisons have a big playoff series against the Mount Royal Cougars.
“It is a big weekend for us coming up here,” said Caligiuri. “I did double duty here today, practising (with the Bisons) this morning and then coming here. It is good to see these guys shoot the puck and how fast they do things; it never gets old.”
Not a bad gig for the 2009-10 MJHL Champion and playoff Most Valuable Player. Caligiuri spent one record-setting season with the Dauphin Kings after splitting time in the Western Hockey League with the Brandon Wheat Kings and the Prince George Cougars.
“It was the best four years I have had,” recalls Caligiuri of his time spent on the junior circuit. “Dauphin especially, that year was special with how good our team was. We once and a while look back at it, some guys will post something on Twitter, so it is fun to look back on that and hopefully that record in Dauphin stays intact for a while.”
Caligiuri has since moved on to CIS hockey with the University of Manitoba Bisons. Now in his fourth year with the herd, the 24-year-old says the transition was, at first, a bit of an adjustment, but now is just second nature.
“When I went from the Western (Hockey) League to the Manitoba Junior Hockey League it was a bit of a difference,” Caligiuri said. “Then, when I went to the CIS, it was a little bit quicker than the Western League just because guys are a little bit older and played there.
“I didn’t play a lot in my first year, they had a fifth year starter, so after that they kind of worked me in. The last three years I have got an opportunity to play and it has been good.”
Caligiuri is weighing his options regarding using his fifth and final year of eligibility at the CIS-level. In his time at the University of Manitoba, Caligiuri has obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree and has since been accepted into Law School starting this upcoming fall.
“I am leaning towards not coming back just because of school but I haven’t ruled it out completely,” said Caligiuri tentatively. “I love playing and it is something I am going to miss so it is something I am going to have to evaluate once the season is over.”