Former University of Maine goalie, Jimmy Howard (Detroit Red Wings), is wearing a new shade of blue these days, in the form of the USA Hockey's red, white and blue.  Howard is one of three goalies representing the United States men's hockey team in Sochi, Russia.  Howard is currently suiting up third behind 2010 Vancouver hero, Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres), and current stand out, Jonathan Quick (LA Kings).

It's always very cool for me when I get to watch Jimmy play.  I stood in the balcony at Alfond Arena, surrounded by my fellow Maine~iaks, as he played at Maine.  I remember that he had talent and passion and always wore a hemp and shell necklace.  My friends and I measure all new goalies to Jimmy.  Many times since he moved on to professional hockey a "I miss Jimmy" or "Wow, that was Jimmy-esque" has passed our lips.  He was an incredible presence at the Alfond.  I swear to you, there were some games where he would stand on his head to stop a puck.  If there was a way that he could physically make a save, he would get there.  Jimmy Howard never let us down.  He was unbelievable.

I have two Jimmy Howard stories that I love to hear about or tell.  The first is when my friends went to the TD Garden in Boston to watch, I believe it was Hockey East or the Frozen Four, and one of my friends found a Jimmy Howard sign that someone had attempted to throw away.  He picked it up and walked away- it was a nice sign that said something along the lines of Jimmy being the unknown author's hero.  The next thing you know, the group of my friends walked past Jimmy's mother, who saw the sign, which lead to a conversation and pictures and future entertainment for generations.

My second story was I can't remember who we were playing, but I seem to recall it was UMass-Amherst (I remember the color maroon, but it could have been BU red, and definitely was NOT the BC maroon and gold).  They had this player, he was small and pesky and kept getting on the wrong side of our goalie. Jimmy got so frustrated that he ran his mouth a bit.  Their paths crossed as they were heading to their benches.  Jimmy was still venting his ire, when he held up two fingers, spaced just-so apart from each other, and there was no denying that he was commenting on the other guy's stature and lack of ability.  It was a priceless.

Hockey East, the league that the University of Maine participates in, is well represented on Team USA.  James van Riemsdyk from the University of No Hardware, also known as the University of New Hampshire, Kevin Shattenkirk played at Boston University and Brooks Orpik represents Boston College.  Jonathan Quick, starting goalie for Team USA, is also a Hockey East Alum, coming out of the University of Massachusetts.