David Aebischer pulled on a Winnipeg Jets practice jersey Monday morning, punched the clock and went to work stopping pucks.
It's the only life Aebischer has known going on 14 years as a professional goalie, a career that has taken him from Switzerland, to Stanley Cup glory to hockey's unemployment line. Where his next stop might be -- Winnipeg, St. John's, Lugano -- is a subplot to Jets' training camp that could be answered today as the club slices down its roster, or later on this week after the final two pre-season contests.
"I don't know anything right now," said Aebischer Monday after a workout at the MTS Iceplex, when asked if he might see some playing time later this week.
"I just try to give everything I have right now and see what's going to happen."
Essentially, Aebischer -- a man who led Switzerland to a surprise bronze medal at the 1998 World Junior Hockey Championship, twice wore his country's colours in the Olympics and five times at world championships, backed up Patrick Roy when the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 2000-01 and started 62 games as the Avs' No. 1 netminder two years later -- is trying to re-establish himself on the NHL radar screen.
His resumé glows. But working against him is his age -- 33 -- and the fact he has played exactly one NHL game over the past five winters. He does have a safety net in place as he does have a contract with his Swiss club, HC Lugano, but...
"I don't really want to think about that," he said. "I could have stayed in Europe and played there, but for me it was important to try again to play in the best league in the world and that's why I'm here."
Aebischer could have stayed in Europe and finished up his career in the Swiss League.
He's got the creds to make that last until he makes the choice to hang 'em up.
But a fire still burns in his gut, he says, and the way his last NHL attempt ended -- he was beaten out of work with Phoenix by Alex Auld and Mikael Tellqvist and waived -- is fuelling his desire to give it one last go.
"The way it ended with my stint in Phoenix... that was a little bit disappointing," Aebischer said. "I went to Switzerland out of necessity because (the NHL) didn't really call on me. Of course, my goal was to play one year there and come back over but it didn't happen that way.
"It's good to have goals in life. So now for me there is a big challenge ahead of me and I'll try it again."
Aebischer, who compiled a 106-74-17 record with 2.52 goals against average and .912 save percentage with Colorado, Montreal and Phoenix, does give the Jets some interesting options and depth at the position.
With Ondrej Pavelec locked in as the top netminder and Chris Mason a solid No. 2, Aebischer could provide a veteran presence in the organization.
Then again, having him on The Rock in St. John's might rob prospects like Peter Mannino, Edward Pasquale or Chris Carrozzi of valuable minutes.
Then again, while Aebischer desperately wanted to return to the NHL, his phone wasn't exactly humming this summer.
And so, when the Jets beckoned, he jumped. "I didn't have the luxury to have 10 teams to choose from... I'm really happy to get a chance here," he said.
This opportunity, as coveted as it is, does have an expiry date. Aebischer was in net Sunday when the Jets fell 4-0 to the Carolina Hurricanes, but was proud of how he battled after surrendering two early goals.
Small consolation, perhaps, when every minute in the net, every save, is essentially part of an audition.
"Yes, it is actually," Aebischer said. "I don't really go on the ice thinking about that, but it is that. I go out there and try to be good every day and work hard every day. Right now my mindset is day to day."
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @WFPEdTait