Goalie Norm Maracle came to the Atlanta Thrashers' training camp in 2001 hoping to maintain his spot on the roster. After a stellar junior career, he spent most of his time in the Detroit Red Wings' farm system since turning pro in 1994-95.
Born in Belleville, Ontario, Maracle played the 1990-91 season with the Calgary Stars and won the Warwick Trophy as the most valuable player in the AMHL. He then spent three years with the WHL's Saskatoon Blades and was taken 126th overall by the Wings in 1993. Maracle was returned to junior where he led the league with 41 wins on Saskatoon and fought valiantly as the club failed to vanquish the powerful Kamloops Blazers in the playoffs. He was placed on the Canadian Major Junior first all-star team and named the top goalie in junior hockey at the CHL awards.
Maracle debuted with the AHL's Adirondack Red Wings in 1994-95 and eventually became one of the top backstoppers in the league. He led the AHL with 34 wins in 1996-97 and was placed on the league's second all-star team in 1997 and 1998. The young netminder made six appearances for Detroit in 1997-98 then played in 16 games while filling in for the injured Chris Osgood the next season.
In 1999 the Atlanta Thrashers picked Maracle in the Expansion Draft and used him in 32 games during their inaugural season. The emergence of Milan Hnilicka in 2000-01 caused him to spent most of the season in the minors. Maracle won 33 games for the Orlando Solar Bears of the IHL and was named the league's MVP and shared the James Norris Memorial Trophy with Scott Fankhouser foe allowing the fewest goals in the league. He also won the "Bud" Poile Trophy as playoff MVP after leading the team to the Turner Cup in 2001.