As a player always slotted as backup goalie, Jamie McLennan used to enter each season wondering how much work he’d get. During his NHL career that began in 1993 and ended in 2008, his games played in a season ranged from nine in 2006-07 with Calgary to 38 in 2000-01 with Minnesota. All told, McLennan appeared in 254 games (80-109-36 record and 13 shutouts).
“I’m very proud of it,” McLennan said. “I had some success and pitfalls. I am well aware it wasn’t Hall of Fame worthy, but I was a backup goalie who hung around for a long time.”
Today, as a hockey analyst with TSN and the NHL Network, McLennan is still viewed as a backup by some. With Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger the go-to guys at TSN, McLennan gets duty on That’s Hockey and That’s Hockey 2Nite on TV and co-hosts Leafs Lunch for two hours a day on TSN Radio. That’s on top of providing color commentary for 36 regionally broadcast games for the Ottawa Senators.
McLennan’s post-NHL life has been interesting, to say the least. At first, he tried playing in Russia with Metallurg Magnitogorsk in 2007. It wasn’t a pleasant experience and he and the team parted ways after just five weeks.
“I didn’t like it there,” McLennan said, “and they didn’t like me.”
McLennan was ready to retire, and he remembered Flames GM Darryl Sutter had promised him a job in the organization when his playing days were over. McLennan was about to call when an old pal got to him first.
Childhood friend Joel Dyck had been playing in Japan for years with the Nippon Paper Cranes of the Asian League and wanted his buddy to join him. Dyck convinced McLennan and former NHLer Tyson Nash, to join the Paper Cranes for 2007-08. Although Nippon lost to Oji in the final, for McLennan it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“To go to Japan and actually get paid to play hockey and experience their culture is something I never dreamed of,” McLennan said. “It was a great way to end my playing career.” (You can read McLennan’s hilarious first-hand accounts of his time in Japan at thn.com/mclennan.)
Playing abroad wasn’t foreign to McLennan, who played for the Guildford Flames in the English Premier League during the 2004-05 lockout. He said he put on 26 pounds washing all his meals down with beer. After retiring, McLennan accepted an offer to be the goaltending development coach and scout with the Flames. He enjoyed the job, but found it gruelling. He was at the rink up to 18 hours a day.
McLennan detailed his life as a coach, along with the rest of his NHL career, in The Best Seat In The House, released in 2012.
“I don’t think coaches get enough credit,” McLennan said. “It’s thankless. When the team wins, it’s the players and when the team loses, it’s the coach. Coaches live every minute of the game 20 times over after the game.”
McLennan left coaching after getting an offer from TSN.
McLennan, nicknamed ‘Noodles,’ values the friendships he forged in his playing days. He’s close to Jarome Iginla, Chris Pronger and Roberto Luongo. McLennan backed up Luongo in Florida in 2005-06. The two became so close that Luongo tried to make it part of his contract with the Panthers that McLennan would stay.
For his part, McLennan admires Luongo.
“The biggest thing is his sense of humor,” he said. “Until his Twitter account came out, very few people realized how quick-witted and funny he is.”