The Central Hockey League twice this season has awarded the Arizona Sundogs' Adam Russo its Oakley Goaltender of the Week honor.
He won't admit it, but it's nothing new to the almost 30-year-old Montreal, Quebec, Canada, native. He was Best Goaltender in Junior League, Goaltender of the Year in the Canadian Hockey League, and also earned the CHL award as a member of the Quad City Mallards and later, the Wichita Thunder.
For the past 15 years during the off-season, he's parlayed his netminding expertise into a training business called Action Reaction Goaltending, or AR, in Vancouver, British Columbia.
"I also love helping out minor league hockey," Russo said. "It's tough here to get involved as much as I'd like, because I've never been on a team that traveled so much."
The team itself, with a number of veteran players, is a great group of guys, he said.
"The amount of experience in the dressing room is amazing. The guys are ready to go no matter what," he said. "It's a lot of fun coming to the ice, and the new coach fits in well. Since Muskie (Scott Muscutt) has arrived, he's brought so much positive energy into the room."
As the crowds have increased of late, Russo likens the fan base to having a seventh player on the ice.
"It's a big motivator for us, and probably the most important part of having home ice advantage," he noted, especially headed into the playoffs, as the Sundogs are this week.
He's focused on that, but in a couple of months, he will be able to kick back and visit his parents, Deborah and Frank, in Montreal. He also will have time to golf, and participate in water sports, especially "ski-dooing," tubing and skiing, at his beach condo in BC.
An only child, Russo first donned skates as a 4-year-old and was playing hockey at age 5.
He said his whole family is close, but calls his grandfather, Gordon Thompson, his inspiration. He wears his grandpa's WWII dogtag on a chain around his neck all the time.
"He's a machine," Russo said, smiling. "He's 89, and still takes care of older ladies, driving them to appointments and such. I admire him, just knowing he was in the war, and always such a good father to my mom and her three sisters."
He loves Montreal.
"It's a fantastic city - like a modern European city," Russo said. "The night life is unbelievable. There's so much to do, and always a festival going on."
In contrast, Quebec City, three hours away, has the feel of an old European town, he said.
Russo, with an Italian passport, was a member of Italy's national hockey team, and also played in France. The experience helped him become tri-lingual, along with satisfying his love of travel. He mentioned visiting or playing in Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Russia, France, Germany, Italy, England and Spain.
"I'm blessed to do all the things I've done," he said.
He's been immersed in hockey since leaving home at age 15 to live with a billet family, two hours away. Fortunately, his parents could watch his games every weekend.
"It prepared me for the following year when I was 11 hours away and my parents couldn't always be there," Russo said. "That was the experience I needed to be really successful."
He thinks about returning to school to earn a business degree, but isn't ready to leave the ice. "Whenever I question (because of pain) why I continue to play, I ask myself, 'would you really want to be in a 9-5 job?' I was groomed and brought up to do this until I can't do it anymore.
"When I don't love it anymore, I will hang up my skates," he said.
For now, Russo will continue to share goaltending duties with David Brown, with whom he is happy to serve.
"I think we have two of the better goalies in the league - a really good duo," Russo said seriously, adding that consistency is key to success.
Sundogs fans have come to expect that consistency from Russo and hope he will strap on his skates for many years to come - and that he will celebrate his 30th birthday, April 12, preparing for the second round of playoffs.