In the dictionary, a journeyman refers to a professional sportsman who plays for a large number of different clubs during his career. 35-year-old goaltender Pål Grotnes, who is currently playing for Stjernen in Norway, could quite possibly be defined as the epitome of journeyman hockey players.
Although Norway’s top league does not compare to the likes of the big European leagues such as the KHL or the Elitserien, the level of play this season has been upgraded by the three locked out NHL players currently playing in this league (Deryk Engelland, Jack Skille, and Eric Nystrom), as well as international goaltenders Jürgen Penker of Austria and Nicklas Dahlberg of Sweden.
Grotnes, who is nicknamed “The Carpenter”, was the Norwegian national team’s starting goalie from 2005 all the way until the 2011 IIHF World Championship. These days he is nearing the end of his career and has a more “taxi squad” type of role with the team as Dynamo Minsk goalie Lars Haugen and Boston Bruins prospect Lars Volden have now taken over the goaltending position for the Norwegians.
Grotnes made his debut for the Norwegian national team way back at the 2005 IIHF World Championship Division I but he first came into the international spotlight at the 2008 Worlds in Quebec City and Halifax where he played a very memorable game against Canada making an astonishing 50 saves in a 2-1 loss. After the game, North American press began labelling Grotnes as a hero when news broke out that he also works part time as a carpenter because he does not make enough money playing in the Norwegian league gaining him some fame and stardom.
Two years later is where most people would hear from Grotnes, this time at the Olympic stage as he was Norway’s starting goalie at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. In the opening game, Grotnes and his Norwegian side went up against the host and powerhouse nation Canada.
Grotnes would keep the first period scoreless and even made a terrific glove save on NHL superstar Sidney Crosby. Canada would end up winning the game 8-0 but Grotnes was labelled as Norway’s best player that night. He would go on to play in all of his country’s remaining games including a tight 5-4 overtime loss to Switzerland and a narrow 4-3 loss to Slovakia in the playoff round.
A few months later, Grotnes took part in his final World Championship where he was his team’s starting goalie in Germany. It was here that Grotnes would record possibly the biggest win of his career when he was instrumental in a 3-2 victory over the Czech Republic making 44 saves in the process. That year would be Grotnes’s best Worlds stats-wise as he went 3-2 in five games with a 2.81 GAA and an impressive 92.6 save percentage.
Grotnes is also known to be one of the most likeable guys in his team’s locker room. Sam Liebkind, who was the former goalie coach for the Norwegian national team said: “Pål is very down to earth, coachable and has his life values set. He is a calm and great competitor, very passionate and overall a really good locker room player and a polite gentleman.”
André Lysenstøen, who was a former teammate of Grotnes on the national team, added that “Pål is Pål always. Always square to the puck, positioning excellent” and later said: “Pål always has a smile on his face and expects a lot from himself and his teammates. He is one of the veterans that helped the new players feel welcome on the team.”
IIHF.com asked Pål Grotnes some questions.
How did you start playing hockey/goalie, and at what age?
Age 4. My older brother by two years started so I had to do the same. Someone asked who wants to be in net, and I said yes. I played on three age levels at the same time both in net and out until I was 14 when I finally played solely as a goalie.
Describe your playing style.
I’m not really fast so I try to read the plays and the shooters. I am not only a butterfly goalie, I add in some old school too.
Are you happy with your hockey career and being a journeyman goalie and why did it take you until the 2004-05 season for you to make you’re national team debut?
Yes and No. I was born in Norway but raised in Sweden [his mother is Swedish] so I played nine exhibition games with the Swedish junior national team and was really good between the ages of 15-17 but I didn’t play so much in my first junior years with the Frölunda Indians. They had a really good goalie there and he was two years older than me so I think I lost two years of important games. Then after I almost never had a goalie coach, I still don’t, only on the national team. But in France I had a Swedish coach that loved goalies and he was really good so he got me to the Allsvenskan the year after and in my first years in Norway I got my Norwegian passport, so after that I was on the Norwegian national team and am really happy with those years, but I think I’ve been a little unlucky on the road.
Talk about some of your greatest moments in hockey.
I think I have three games that were the big moments for me of my career.
1) 2008 Worlds in Halifax against Canada (50 saves in tight 2-1 loss)
2) Beating the Czech Republic in Mannheim (44 saves in big 3-2 upset win)
3) 2010 Olympics against Canada or the whole Olympics. It was unbelievable and we were pretty close to the quarter-finals. (28 saves allowing four goals against Canada before being pulled in the third period)
Do you have any regrets during your career?
In my third year playing in the Allsvenskan, I could have gone to another team with a goalie coach but I didn’t.
Did you have any mentors that helped make you the goalie you were?
Would you consider the years you played in the Allsvenskan your highest level of club hockey?
Yes I would, but the Norwegian league is pretty good now.
How is your season going with Stjernen so far?
We are not too good. We play even with all the teams but we usually lose. We did get two new defencemen in the past few weeks (Jan Snopek and Nikita Kolesnikovs) because two D’s are out with concussions and we have big troubles scoring. I have an average of 40 shots a game and a 90% save percentage.
It appears your career is winding down, are you going to retire soon or will you be hanging around a little longer?
I have a sore hip so we will see if this is maybe my last season.
What do you think about how Norway's growth as a hockey nation from when you started with the national team to present day being a top-eight country in the world?
Yes we have a great team but not so many of the current players are going to be around in a few years. All the players right now grew up together and now will retire soon. We have a good team spirit.
Are you going to get your kids to start play hockey/goalie?
My son is four and is playing, but not goalie yet.
What other Norwegian national team players are you good friends with?
I always share a room with Mats Trygg and we hang out with Per-Åge Skrøder and Mads Hansen.
Do you see the next crop of Norwegian goalies (Haugen, Volden, Soberg, Narmo) helping Norway to become a rising power in the hockey world?
Yes, they have had a goalie coach from the start and getting it done. They are looking good!
How did you like Canada when you came here for the 2008 Worlds and 2010 Olympics?
I love Canada and I am going back some day!
NHL Team: Boston Bruins
Childhood Idol: Patrick Roy
Video Game: Gran Turismo
Movie: Old School
TV Show: Homeland
Pump-Up Song: For Whom the Bell Tolls – Metallica
Home-cooked meal: Biff
Activity Away From the Rink: BMX Racing, Golf, Family and Friends