Mike Condon ’13 makes a  save during a Nov. 27 Montreal win against the New Jersey Devils. (Ed Mulholland, USA TODAY Sports)
Mike Condon ’€™13 makes a save during a Nov. 27 Montreal win against the New Jersey Devils. (Ed Mulholland, USA TODAY Sports)

After going undrafted in the NHL following his time as a goalie on the Princeton men’s hockey team, Mike Condon ’13 was unsure of what to do next. He had played four seasons at Princeton but only started his senior year. When the Tigers’ season ended in March, Condon flew to southern California to try out for the Ontario (Calif.) Reign, a mid-level professional team then in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), while trying to finish his senior thesis about post-Cold War arms transfers.

Condon played well in California and was called up to play backup goalie for the Houston Aeros, the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the Minnesota Wild. It wasn’t long before Condon caught the attention of the Montreal Canadiens, signing a contract in May 2013. After honing his skills during the last two seasons with the Canadiens’ ECHL and AHL affiliates, the Wheeling Nailers and Hamilton Bulldogs, Condon earned the role of backup goalie for the Canadiens. He has played in 23 of the team’s 36 games this season, filling in for the starting goalie, Carey Price, who is out with a lower-body injury until at least mid-January.

The jump from minor-league hockey to the NHL “is a challenge, and there’s a little bit of doubt in your mind,” Condon said. “At first it’s a little intimidating to be on the ice with [NHL players] because you don’t know how you’re going to fare. But the best way to do it is to jump into the fire, play with confidence, and trust your training.”

Condon, who has helped propel the Canadiens to the top of the Atlantic Division, said his time spent trying to balance hockey and schoolwork at Princeton helped him to develop that confidence, which has been imperative to his success in the NHL.

“To wake up in the morning, skate at 6 a.m., go to three or four classes, then go lift, then go to a team practice and then run as fast as you can to catch the dining hall … everything seems a lot easier now,” Condon said. “At Princeton, I learned I could play hockey and balance an academic workload. But now, I’m just playing hockey.”

The next couple of weeks will be an exciting time for Condon: The Canadiens are facing off against his hometown team, the Boston Bruins, on New Year’s Day in the 2016 Winter Classic, one of the NHL’s biggest regular-season games. Condon will be playing 20 minutes from his childhood home in Holliston, Mass., at Gillette Stadium, where he’ll leading his team in front of nearly 70,000 people.

“There’s a lot of pressure to win up here, but that’s what you want though — you want a team that wants to win, that wants to invest in their players,” he said. “And if you want to do something in life, you can do anything you want. It’s just a matter of how hard you want it. … Hard work beats talent 10 times out of 10.”