Sudarshan Maharaj, whose passion for hockey began when an NHL player who would later become his boss tossed him a puck at a game decades ago, is the new goalie coach for the Anaheim Ducks.
The team tapped Maharaj to replace former NHL netminder Dwayne Roloson, who stepped down from the coaching job earlier this summer.
A native of Trinidad, Maharaj has been with the Ducks organization since the 2013-14 season. He served as a goaltendting consultant working primarily with the San Diego Gulls, the Ducks’ American Hockey League farm team that relocated from Norfolk, Va., last season.
Under his tutelage, Gulls goaltenders posted a 39-23-8 record, a 2.87 goals-against average, a .906 save percentage, and a spot in the AHL’s Calder Cup Playoffs. John Gibson, one of Maharaj’s former Gulls netminders, is poised to be the Ducks top goaltender for the 2016-17 season.
Maharaj is a veteran coach. He was the New York Islanders goalie coach from 2003 to 2006 and goaltending consultant for the team from 2009 to 2012. He also helped develop that National Goaltending Training Program for Hockey Canada from 2005-07.
In a hockey playing and coaching career that spans more than three decades, Maharaj has coached Montreal Canadiens backup goalie Al Montoya and former NHLers Kevin Weekes, Rick DiPietro, Joey MacDonald, Steve Valiquette, Martin Biron, and Roloson.
Maharaj attended Toronto’s York University and was a member of its 1984-85 championship hockey team. Afterwards, he played professionally in Sweden from 1985 to 1991. He enjoyed playing in Sweden, but living there wasn’t without its racial difficulties, including having his car set ablaze.
“One of the young lads didn’t particularly like the color of my skin, me being in the town, and who I was associating with and all that,” Maharaj told me last year. “So he decided to make a bonfire that night.”
Maharaj is one of hockey’s great six degrees of separation stories. His family moved from Trinidad to Toronto when he was about six years old. He went to his first National Hockey League game at the old Maple Leafs Gardens and stood by the low glass, wide-eyed as the Toronto Maple Leafs skated through their pregame warm-up.
As the Leafs left the ice, a player tossed him a puck – a moment that made Maharaj realize that hockey was the game for him.The Leafs player was Bruce Boudreau who became the Ducks’ head coach in 2011-12.
As goalie consultant for the organization, Maharaj helped evaluate, train, and educate goalies for the man who triggered his love for the game decades earlier.
“I told Bruce that story,” Maharaj told me last November. “He was shocked that I remembered. I said ‘Are you crazy? That’s a life-changing moment. It was one of my greatest experiences. My very first hockey game and a Toronto Maple Leafs player dropped a puck for me.’ To this day, if I ever see a young child in the stands I’ll always throw a puck.”
Alas, “Sudsie” and “Gabby” won’t be reunited in Anaheim. The Ducks dismissed Boudreau in April after the team lost a Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 7 for the fourth straight season. He’s now head coach of the Minnesota Wild .