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Habs goalie Mike Condon prepared for pressure after journey to Montreal

Mike Condon has a 9-5-3 record with the Canadiens this season. Francois Lacasse/Getty Images

Growing up, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Mike Condon never had to think about where he was going to get equipment from. His father, Ted, was the equipment manager for the youth hockey organization in their hometown of Holliston, Massachusetts, so his gear was always close by.

"My garage was full and people would come over to get dirty shirts and dirty socks, and I had all the goalie equipment," Ted Condon said. "Mike started messing around with it and he liked it, so his brother started zipping [pucks] at him in the driveway. He liked all the gear. He's nuts about his gear."

Condon, 25, played numerous sports growing up, including football, lacrosse and soccer. He even tried crew. But it was hockey that fueled his passion to play.

Now he's living his dream.

Condon was thrust into the spotlight this season after Carey Price suffered a lower-body injury in late October and missed nine games. Condon was given the opportunity to start, and he went 5-2-2 during that span. Price reaggravated the injury on Nov. 25 and will remain out of the lineup until mid-January, putting Condon back in the No. 1 role.

The requests for autographs, tickets and interviews have been coming in since Condon earned a spot on the Montreal roster out of training camp; it's something he family never imagined.

"We're kind of very surprised by all this for a backup goalie," Ted Condon said.

The pressure to perform in Montreal can sometimes seem insurmountable no matter who the player is, but for a rookie it must be even greater.

"It's been the same type of mentality I had throughout the offseason and during training camp," Mike Condon said. "There's certainly pressure you can put on yourself. I watch a lot of Patriots football, so you kind of take the approach of one day at a time and worrying about the task at hand in front of you and letting your work take care of that one.

"It's not about the pressure but more about putting in more consistent work in my eyes."

The Canadiens and Condon's family have tried to limit distractions for Mike. His dad told him to cut out all social media so he could focus on doing his job. And his parents, who divorced when Mike was younger, didn't attend his first NHL game on Oct. 11 in Ottawa because everyone wanted him to focus on "the task at hand." It worked. Condon made 20 saves en route to a 3-1 win over the Senators.

Being from Boston and having a son playing for the Canadiens has been interesting for Ted Condon.

"The rivalry was huge when I was a kid, and I grew up in the Bobby Orr era when everybody built a rink because of Bobby Orr and the big, bad Bruins," Ted Condon said. "I grew up a huge Bruins fans, and Mike has always had an interest in the rivalry."

Mike Condon went to a few Bruins-Canadiens games at TD Garden in the days when the building was named the FleetCenter. It was then, as a young goaltender, he learned to appreciate both teams and the excitement it brought to the hockey world.

"He got the bug from being in the atmosphere in that building," his father said. "His brother was a big Bruins fan, as was I, but Mike was always a big fan of the rivalry. I'm just overwhelmed and shocked by all this. It's just incredible."

Ted Condon is a sergeant in the Massachusetts State Police violent fugitive apprehension section. His role is to execute warrants on violent criminals. He was involved in the manhunt and apprehension of the Boston Marathon bombers in April 2013. So it's safe to say he knows how to handle pressure.

Watching his son handle his role as the Canadiens' temporary starter, Ted said he's learning to control his emotions while he watches hockey games.

When he's attending a game, Ted is forced to sit on his hands and keep his mouth shut, he said, half-joking. If he's watching at home, he's pacing and vocal in front of the TV.

Condon is proud of both of his boys. His oldest son, Zachary, 30, is a harbor pilot at St. Andrews Bay in Florida.

"What I instilled in both my boys was hard work," Condon said. "It's a cliché, but hard work is painful and it costs and it's time. There's no bulls---. Either you do it or you don't. You have to do it until you're exhausted and when you're hurting. When you're mentally weak, you still have to do it. You still have to do the things that you don't like to do, just as much as the things you like to do."

Mike Condon's work ethic was apparent even when he was fighting for a roster spot at Belmont Hill School in Belmont, Massachusetts.

"He knew every time he was out there he had to battle for the position to be in goal," Condon's high school coach, Ken Martin, said. "He embraced that. Some goalies like to take a day off here or there, but that was never Mike's way.

"He was a top-notch person in the character department, not a character wise guy, but all the right characteristics that you would want in your goalie. He worked hard every day in practice and wasn't one looking to take any shortcuts."

Off the ice, Condon worked hard in the classroom and was accepted to Princeton.

"Well, he wasn't a guy that they were bringing up at faculty meetings about not doing well," Martin said. "And we've had a few of those. He didn't get into Princeton without good grades."

Condon played four seasons at Princeton but only started his senior year. After his collegiate career ended in March 2013, the undrafted goaltender moved out to Ontario, California, on a tryout for the Reign of the ECHL.

Condon still had to finish his college thesis, so while his teammates were hanging out, he was in his hotel room writing about post-Cold War arms transfers. Then he found out the parent club, the Los Angeles Kings, was going to use Jean-Francois Berube in net for the postseason.

Ready to return to school to finish his degree, Condon got a call that the Houston Aeros, then the AHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild, needed a backup goaltender. So Condon headed to Houston for the remainder of the regular season.

Due to injuries, Condon became the starting goalie in the Calder Cup playoffs.

Condon had grabbed the attention of the Canadiens by this point, and after the Aeros' postseason ended, Montreal quickly signed him.

In 2013-14, Condon played for the Wheeling Nailers, the ECHL affiliate of the Canadiens. He posted a 23-12-4 record, along with a 2.18 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage.

Nailers coach Clark Donatelli was impressed with his new goaltender's practice habits on a daily basis.

"He was out of Princeton, and no one really knew who he was," Donatelli recalled. "So, he shows up and played extremely well for us, especially down the stretch to get into the playoffs. He worked really hard, tremendously hard and he was the last guy off the ice and first one on the ice. He did it religiously."

Condon honed his skills in Wheeling, and in 2014-15, he starred for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL. He posted a 23-19-6 record, a 2.44 GAA and a .921 save percentage.

Once training camp began this season, he earned the backup role to Price. Now this kid from Boston is playing for one of the most storied franchises in sports, and there is a reason he's having success.

"The grind has kind of tempered him for this," Ted Condon said.

The 2016 Winter Classic between the Canadiens and Bruins is going to be an exciting one for Mike Condon, his family and friends. Inside Gillette Stadium, he will be focused on beating his hometown team, while his crew is tailgating in the parking lot.

"I'm hoping it just goes well. I'm hoping he plays," Condon's father said of the game. "If he doesn't, it'll be good to see him after. It's tough watching this. I can't imagine playing in front of 70,000. It's going to be unbelievable. I'm kind of in awe of it all. We didn't expect this."

At some point in his life, Mike Condon will reflect on his career and remember how his path to the NHL was paved: a journey through high school, college and minors that began in the driveway of his childhood home with his older brother shooting pucks at him.

"It's been a huge adjustment," Condon said. "The last three years have each been a hard adjustment in their own, going from college to the East Coast League to the AHL to the NHL in a pretty quick period. There hasn't been any time to stop and smell the roses."

ESPN's Craig Custance contributed to this report.