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Full steam ahead: Chicago Express goaltender Rob Madore makes an early impact both on, and off the ice

Goaltender Rob Madore makes his net presence known at the University of Vermont. (Ryan Mercer/Burlington Free Press)

CHICAGO – While most college seniors are consumed with thoughts of finishing classes, graduation plans, and entering the job market, Rob Madore is concerned with all of that, and more. As the newest member of the Chicago Express, an ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, Madore has been propelled overnight from the realm of NCAA athletics into the hectic world of professional sports.

Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Madore developed an affinity for hockey at an early age, recalling the days of Pittsburgh hockey greats Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr as the most notable in his early childhood. It was his father, however, that first got him involved with the sport.

“My dad never played hockey until he met my mom, and for their first anniversary she bought him a whole set of hockey gear, so that’s how my family got started playing hockey,” Madore recalled. “I think my dad just needed someone to shoot on, which is terrible, but he’s trying to get better, so why not stick your three-year-old toddler in the net? But I survived, you know, with all my baby teeth, and now I’m a goalie.”

In addition to role models Lemieux and Jagr, Madore particularly looked up to New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur as an influence on his hockey career. Brodeur, who is currently in his 15th season with the Devils, is viewed by many as one of the greatest goaltenders in NHL history.

“I always liked watching Martin Brodeur because he was very good, and he used to shoot the puck,” Madore said. “No goalies handled the puck like Martin Brodeur.”

While many players proved inspiration for Madore to enter the world of hockey, it was the uniqueness and freedom of expression that came with goaltending that attracted Madore to the position.

“I started playing goalie because I liked the equipment; it’s colorful, it’s unique,” Madore remarked. “I don’t know what that says about me, but I like being unique.”

Madore’s first taste of the world of professional hockey came at the age of sixteen, when he received a call that he would be practicing with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“One day the Pens goalie was sick, and their AHL teams were out of town. They didn’t have any chance of getting their goalies, so I got to go and practice with the Pens,” Madore recalled. “It was Mario Lemieux’s last practice, and I got to be a part of that, so it was really fun.”

While Madore may be the newest addition to the Chicago Express, he is no stranger to the city of Chicago. In high school, Madore was drafted to the USHL’s Chicago Steel, a team dedicated to player development. Ultimately, he finished his career with the Steel ranked first in the USHL in saves.

After graduating from Naperville Central High School, Madore went on to play for the University of Vermont, an era in which his signature yellow goalie pads made their first appearance. In addition to complementing Vermont’s school colors, Madore also credits another one of his favorite players, Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, as his reasoning behind the fashion statement.

“The Pittsburgh Penguins’ goalie, when he first came into the league, he wore the yellow pads,” Madore stated. “I don’t like to be that flashy when I’m off the ice, but when you put on the mask, you kind of become a different person.”

Maintaining a “non-flashy” persona off the ice is evident in Madore’s actions, as he continues to work towards obtaining his college degree from the University of Vermont as a Marketing Major. Enrolling in two classes and an internship may not seem like a large workload to most college students, but when a professional sports career is an added part of that workload, the decision to carry on with academic studies is quite admirable.

When he’s not avoiding slap shots to the face (which, on average, reach a speed of 80-90 mph), Madore enjoys relaxing with a good book, a surprising, yet refreshing admission in contrast with the typical hockey player’s “tough guy” persona.

“I don’t want to ruin my rep, but I like to read, I like art,” Madore admitted. “I’m into reading anything really, I’m reading a book by Steve Berry right now and it’s pretty good, and John Grisham. I like history too.”

Madore’s decision to make the move to Chicago was forced to be a quick one, as he was notified that the Chicago Express were adding him to the roster on March 8 and was required to move here on the same day.

“I was actually at the store one day and my agent called, and told me there were a couple of teams interested, and what would I think about going out and playing for the rest of the season?” Madore recalled, “So he called me back fifteen minutes later and told me hey, you’re headed to Chicago, why don’t you pack up your stuff and drive there, and an hour later I was on the road.”

Although Madore may be the one of the newest members on the Express roster, he certainly isn’t going unnoticed. In five games played with the team, he has posted a stellar 0.930 save percentage and posted one shut out against the top-ranked Kalamazoo Wings. Bob Mills, Director of Media Relations and Broadcasting for the Chicago Express, praises Madore’s evident skill and work ethic.

“I would classify Rob as a really hard worker, we can tell early on that he’s a goalie who’s comfortable scrambling,” Mills stated. “He never gives up on a play, and that’s a great quality to have in a goaltender.”
While Madore undoubtedly has been given an incredible amount of guidance over the years, his advice to junior hockey players is simple.

“Work hard, believe in yourself,” Madore remarked. “No matter how things go, keep enjoying things and good things will happen, you’ll have no regrets.”


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