The Memorial Cup has ended with the Windsor Spitfires winning back-to-back championships. However, the Memorial Cup is a breeding ground for AGMs, especially since most of them have won the Hap Emms Trophy for Top Goalie-- Mark Fitzpatrick, Darren Pang, Eric Fichaud-- and who knows if Martin Jones will join the list of AGMs, but let's hope not. In any case, this week's AGM follows that mold. A great goalie in the juniors, but thanks to some complications; never made it to NHL stardom. This week, it's time to profile Mike Torchia as the AGM.
Torchia started out with the Toronto Red Wings in the Toronto Midget League during the 1987-88 season, playing 40 games, recording five shutouts and a 2.33 GAA average. From that, Torchia went onto the OHL with the Kitchener Rangers, where he backed up Gus Morschauser; where Torchia got 30 games in with a 14-9-4 record in the 1988-89 season. Torchia also got two games in the playoffs, going 0-2. With Morschauser getting traded at the start of the 1989-90 season, Torchia got more time with 40 games to his credit and a 25-11-2 record. Torchia also navigated the Rangers to the OHL finals, but lost to Oshawa in seven games, despite a 11-6 record. Kitchener got in since the OHL was hosting the 1990 Memorial Cup, where Torchia really shined. Despite a 3-2 record, including a Finals loss to the same Oshawa team that beat them in the OHL playoffs; Torchia got the Hap Emms Trophy for Top Goalie in the Memorial Cup and named to the Memorial Cup All-Star team.
The 1990-91 season was something to build off of, but it seems Torchia couldn't get off the number 25, as he went a second straight year with 25 wins (25-24-7), but Torchia wouldn't help in the playoffs going 2-4. Even so, Torchia got First Team All-Star from the OHL in that season, as well as being picked 74th overall by the Minnesota North Stars in the NHL Entry Draft. The 1991-92 season brought about almost the same record, with Torchia going 25-24-3 in 55 games. Torchia helped the Rangers get through the first round of the playoffs, but couldn't get through Sault St. Marie in the second round.
Torchia kept in the amateur ranks by playing for the Canadian National Team to start the 1992-93 season, winning all five of his games with a 2.20 GAA; but he didn't stay long there before he moved to the pros with the Stars' farm team; the Kalamazoo Wings of the IHL. Torchia was a big fish, getting the starting role over Jeff Levy and going 19-17-9 in his first pro season, despite a 3.80 GAA and .892 save percentage. He eased into his role for the 1993-94 season, improving his record with a 23-12-2, though his GAA (3.68) and save percentage (.889) were still not at where he wanted to be. The 1994-95 season saw Torchia back in Kalamazoo (19-14-5), but the Dallas Stars brought him up towards the end of the season in order to see what he could do. In six games with the Stars, Torchia went 3-2-1 and looked like he could fight for the back-up spot in training camp.
However, before he could get into Dallas, his rights were sold to the Washington Capitals. One thing that always haunted Torchia was his weight. Torchia had a bigger frame and it always seemed to be a stumbling block for him when it came to conditioning. Because of that, Torchia didn't get a back-up job for the 1995-96 season and would spend his season with five different teams, including being traded to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks-- though he would not suit up for the Ducks or the Caps in that season. Torchia would play with the Michigan K-Wings (1-0-0) and the Orlando Solar Bears (3-1-1) in the IHL, the Baltimore Bandits (2-1-1) and Portland Pirates (2-6-2) of the AHL, and the Hampton Roads Admirals (2-2-0) of the ECHL. Torchia still couldn't crack a NHL line-up in the 1996-97 season, making him play in the IHL with the Fort Wayne Komets going 20-31-3 on the season, while stepping in for a playoff game for the Baltimore Bandits. Torchia continued in the IHL for the 1997-98 season, playing for the Milwaukee Admirals for most of the season (13-14-1) and then moving to the San Antonio Dragons (0-2-0), with a stint in the ECHL with the Peoria Rivermen, going 4-1-0.
Torchia had no opportunities in North America in the 1998-99 season, so he moved to Europe, where he would head to Italy with HC Asiago, playing 43 games; but having an inflated GAA of over four goals a game. It was enough for the goalie to come back to North America to play first in the UHL in the 1999-2000 season with the Mohawk Valley Prowlers (8-9-4) and then with the Birmingham Bulls (4-10-0) of the ECHL. The highlight of the season for Torchia was that in October of 1999, he scored a goal on an empty-net; becoming one of the handful of goalies to do so.
Again without a North American gig, Torchia went back to Europe, this time to Britain, where he would suit up for the Sheffield Steelers. His numbers would get better, playing 23 games with a 2.06 GAA and .923 save percentage in the 2000-01 season. Torchia would stay in in Britain for the 2001-02 season, but this time with the Manchester Storm, with respectable numbers-- 2.82 GAA and .916 save percentage. Torchia would only play three games for the Storm in 2002-03, but spent most his time with the lower level Guildford Flames.
Torchia would return to North American in the 2003-04 season to play in the OHA Senior League with the Cambridge Hornets. In three seasons (through 2005-06), Torchia would go 14-11-1 before hanging up the skates for good. He now is the color commentator for Rogers TV's coverage of the Kitchener Rangers, as well as working for Hometown Hockey Training and Development.
While Torchia did have his glory, the conditioning side of things that is all so important in the game nowadays is what did him in. Though many would thing a bigger goalie would be the best way to go in order to get more wins, the ability to get a job would be a hard sell if you can't get side-to-side and match the speed of the game in front of you. Even so, Torchia does have all his personal accolades to look back on and set himself up for commentating his old team now.