Garret Sparks gave an emotional interview a day after the Toronto Maple Leafs traded the 26-year-old goaltender to the Vegas Golden Knights for forward David Clarkson and a fourth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
A fresh perspective with a new team could provide Sparks, who has been in the Leafs organization since being drafted back in 2011, the “opportunity” he’s searching for.
"All I've wanted is a fair opportunity, come [training] camp, to try and make the team," Sparks told NHL.com's Tracey Myers, "and I think that I'll get a better opportunity [with Vegas] than I would have in Toronto. At the end of the day, that's what you're looking for as a player."
Some perspective on the opportunities provided to Sparks over his tenure with the club have some revisiting his history with the team.
Article doesn’t note Garret Sparks got #Leafs backup job over more seasoned vets, but. #Leafs stuck with him through last season’s struggles until 11th hour, gave him mid-season extension & he had six years of development through four regime changes...that’s a lot of opportunity https://t.co/vOwARHd89u— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) July 27, 2019
Sparks had a rollercoaster career in Toronto. He debuted with the Maple Leafs in 2015, posting a shutout in his first NHL game. He went on to win the AHL’s Goalie of the Year award in 2017-2018, leading the team to their first Calder Cup title. Along the way, some off-ice incidents including an internal suspension and a post game scrum where he called out his Maple Leafs teammates’ effort, soured his image.
Last season was his second, and final, on the Maple Leafs roster. Sparks began the year with a strong training camp showing, ousting Curtis McElhinney and Calvin Pickard for the backup role behind Frederik Andersen. As a result, both goaltenders were placed on waivers and claimed elsewhere.
Sparks started his 2018-2019 campaign with the Maple Leafs, posting a 6-2-1 record and a 3.00 GAA and .905 save percentage by December 29th. In the New Year, he sustained a concussion in practice which begun his downwards spiral.
"I felt I was finally starting to build some momentum and get my chance," he said. "I just felt like I got cut down, and it's hard to regrow after you get your progress chopped off like that."
Upon returning from injury, Sparks suffered through a 2-7-0 record, and a 3.30 GAA and .899 save percentage. He referred to the season as a whole as “emotionally taxing.”
"I mean, you realize your dream of playing in the NHL, and then you know, as the season goes on, it gets harder day by day," he said. "It's a grind, physically and emotionally.”
Since being traded, he’s only posted the Drake song “Miss Me” to his Twitter account with the caption “Do Right and Kill Everything” without the traditional thank you message to the organization or their fans for 8 years shared together.
In Vegas, Sparks will battle against Malcolm Subban and Oscar Dansk for the opportunity to back up Marc-Andre Fleury for the Golden Knights.
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