Damian Rhodes held a dream of playing in the NHL since his early childhood. It started while playing "knee hockey" in his family basement with a local buddy. The two would scamper about on their knees, savouring that feeling of making the glorious glove save.
From the moment that puck entered his mitt, Rhodes knew that goaltending would be his position of choice. He entered the rich tradition of Minnesota's youth hockey programs and progressed through the ranks to backstop for the Michigan Tech Huskies from 1987 to 1990. While there, he made plenty of big saves but is perhaps best remembered for scoring a goal on January 21, 1989.
During his time with the Huskies, Rhodes was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs who, upon completion of his schooling, dropped him into their farm system for future reference. He started with the Newmarket Saints of the AHL for a season and then shifted east to share goaltending duties with Felix Potvin in St. John's. After the end of the season, Potvin caught on with the Leafs while Rhodes took over the helm in St. John's for one additional year before joining Toronto as Potvin's backup in 1993.
With the departure of Daren Puppa, Rhodes was able to pick up a handful of games each year while Potvin performed workhorse duties. But in 1996, the Leafs sent Rhodes to the Islanders who, in turn, flipped him to Ottawa as part of a larger trade.
With the Sens, he finally landed his first starting role. Victories, however, were a bit hard to come by in the early years. But as Ottawa's fortune's improved, so did Rhodes' bottom line. By the close of the 1997-98 campaign, he finally finished with a .500 record and a personal-best five shutouts. During the season that followed, he helped lead his team to the third-best record in the NHL.
But in 1999, the league underwent another expansion with the arrival of the Atlanta Thrashers. The club liked Rhodes' play, and made him the first-ever player signed to their roster. The move meant plenty of ice time and even more shots to face as his won/loss record took a turn for the worse. By November of his first campaign, however, he suffered a knee and ankle injury that sidelined him for 45 games. He has since bounced back and remains a central player in the Trashers' goal crease.