Eccentric. Witty. Goofy. Wickedly funny. Intellectual. Engaging. Off the wall.
That's how sports writers have described Ilya Bryzgalov, a 33-year-old Russian goaltender who will be in net for the Oklahoma City Barons on Friday night at the Cox Convention Center.
Released last summer from the final seven years of a $51 million deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, Bryzgalov (pronounced briz-GAL-ahv) signed a one-year, $1.7 million deal last week with Edmonton.
One of the NHL's more interesting personalities, similar to basketball icon Bill Walton, Bryzgalov will use Friday's game to help determine how long it will take to him be NHL-game ready.
“It will be good to feel your legs, get a feel for the game again,” Bryzgalov said after a Barons practice. “This will tell you if things need to be fixed.”
Bryzgalov has compiled a solid resume during his seven years as an NHL No. 1 goalie, but he is sometimes better known for his bizarre comments.
During filming of HBO's 24/7 series for the Winter Classic, Bryzgalov said people on our planet are too consumed with everyday challenges. “The Solar system is so humongous,” Bryzgalov said. “Our galaxy is like a small tiny dot in the universe ... so be happy, don't worry.'''
His most famous line was before a playoff series with Pittsburgh. Bryzgalov was asked if he was afraid of the Penguins. He responded he's only scared of a bear in the forest. (That offseason it was revealed Bryzgalov was referring to a picture of a friend who had been mauled to death by a bear.)
“He's a very intriguing guy, someone very interesting to talk to,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “To have him here is exciting for the guys to have a high-profile NHL player come through here.”
On a conditioning assignment with the Barons that can last up to 14 days, Bryzgalov will start Friday's game. Depending on how his body responds, he might start again Saturday night. He could report to Edmonton early next week or might travel with the Barons on an upcoming three-game road trip.
Bryzgalov has worked out daily while waiting to sign with a new team. He's not 100 percent. A game or two with the Barons will determine the next step.
Before Edmonton called last week, Bryzgalov was helping coach his 7-year-old son's hockey team in New Jersey where he and his wife and two kids live.