The Flyers, undergoing their worst season in 12 years, can use all the laughs they can get these days.
Enter Mike McKenna, 35, who is part backup goalie, part standup comic.
Plucked off the waiver wire Friday by the Flyers, McKenna is on his eighth NHL roster, including three teams in three days last week. He has also been on 11 AHL rosters and, so, yes, you have to develop a sense of humor — and a true love for the game — to keep the inner fires burning.
“There’s probably a lot of punch lines associated with what I’ve done,” he said. “You have to be able to laugh at yourself. I take my profession really serious, but there is some inherent dark comedy in this, too.”
McKenna may get the call Tuesday in Washington, or he may have to wait before he becomes the seventh goalie to play for the Flyers this season, tying an NHL record.
He is patient. When you were drafted 17 years ago (Nashville, sixth round) but have played in only 34 career NHL games, you tend to go with the flow.
“With goalies, this can happen,” he said. “You order some white gear and hope it shows up soon.”
McKenna talked about the time he was in the AHL with Norfolk and the team bus was sideswiped by a Volvo and was disabled for hours, or another time when Portland’s team bus blew a tire, caught on fire, and made the news.
“And then I had to play that night,” McKenna explained, “because my goalie partner said his gear smelled too much like smoke and he couldn’t do it.”
McKenna has had only one full practice with the Flyers and hasn’t developed much familiarity with his defense, but he said he was ready.
“To be honest, you’re playing on an island and you can only go out there and worry about what you can control,” he said. “You just try to communicate as best you can with the defensemen. … I’ve walked into a lot of new locker rooms over my years. I guess you almost have kind of a skill to try to get to know everybody, as odd as that sounds.”
His journey, he conceded, “isn’t normal. I didn’t expect this to be my career path, but it is what it is and I’m proud of it. ... Every year in my career I’ve had to fight for my job. I’m proud of it. I’ll own it and I’m happy I’ve made as many friends as I have along the way.”
McKenna’s wife and two young daughters are living in Ontario. McKenna knows he could be packing, again when Michal Neuvirth or Brian Elliott return from injuries.
“I’m just excited to be here,” he said. “This is historically such a storied franchise and it’s definitely a place people want to play.”