Thursday, June 16, 2016

Honourable Mentions

In my criteria for being an NHL backup goalie one has to:
1Sign an NHL contract (amateur, tryout or pro)
2Be dressed and ready to play
3Be on sitting on the bench, game ready
There are goaltenders that have gotten close but have not satisfied every criterion. This is a list of those goalies, which were close to the NHL but not close enough to be classified as an NHL backup. 

Brett Willows

October 17, 2013 The Toronto Maple Leafs were playing the Carolina Hurricanes. Early into game James Reimer was injured and had to leave. Backup goalie Jonathan Bernier took over his spot in net but the Leafs were sent looking for a new substitute goalie incase anything happened to Bernier. The Leafs called the University of Toronto and were directed to their third string netminder, Brett Willows. Ironically, Willows is a Canadiens fan and was sporting a Habs ball cap when the Leafs called. He still happily answered Toronto's request. "At that point I blacked out," said Willows. "It all seemed not real. We were mostly laughing in the truck (on the way to the rink). It was still relatively early in the game. What if something happened to Bernier and I got thrown in there?" When it was determined that James Reimer couldn't return to the bench as the backup Willows was directed to put on his gear, including a brand new Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, #82 with his name no the back. Willows signed and emergency tryout contract but it wasn't filed with the league so he couldn't sit on the bench as the official backup. Had Bernier been injured, however, they would have formalized the deal and Willows would have played. "I wasn't expecting any of this to happen," said Willows. "When Twitter was blowing up and all the texts were coming in, my phone only had a 15 per-cent charge on it, so it died really quick. I couldn't phone my parents. Hopefully they don't hold it against me." (1) (2)

Santino Vasquez

December 17, 2015 the New York Rangers lost goalie Antti Raanta to injury early into a game against the Minnesota Wild. Henrik Lundqvist, who was suppose to have the night off, played the rest of the game but the Rangers wanted some insurance incase Lundqvist got injured. Santino Vasquez was the local emergency goalie in Minnesota so the Rangers gave him a call. "I grabbed my chest protector and helmet off the radiator, stuffed them in my bag, threw on one of my suits, tossed my bag in the trunk of my car and hit the road." said Vasquez. "I only live about two miles over the bridge from the Xcel Center, so it was maybe 10 or 12 minutes before I was pulling into the players’ parking lot. The valet guys— Rick and Joe — are buddies of mine. We used to play softball together. So when Rick and Joe saw me, they immediately started giving me crap, like, 'What are you doing here?,'" laughed Vasquez. "Just across from the visitors locker room at the Xcel Center, there’s a small utility locker room. That’s where they took me. Inside, there was a TV. The game was on. They were two minutes into the second period when I got there. Hank was in net. A guy poked his head into the room and said, “Could you get your stuff on, just in case?” So I got my bottoms on and went through my normal pregame stretches. I didn’t know what was going to happen next — if I was going to the Rangers bench or not, if I was going to get on the ice or not." Vasquez was a minor celebrity when the Twitter world got hold of his situation. On top of the story, he took home a Rangers jersey with his name on the back and the usual $500 paid to emergency goalies. "I packed my stuff up and put on my suit, and when the game ended, a few of the guys come off the ice and into the locker room to stretch out," said Vasquez. "They thanked me again for coming, and I wished them luck at their next game in Winnipeg. I walked out to the parking lot and told Rick and Joe how it all went down." (3)

Scott McKay

March 29, 2012 Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson suffered a knee injury during a pre-game warmup. Jussi Rynnas was thrown into his first NHL start against the Philadelphia Flyers as Gustavsson was unable to play. With their AHL affiliate out of town, the Leafs turned to Scott McKay, a local 40-year old who used to practice with the Leafs when he was their equipment manager. When the Leafs called him McKay was at his home cooking supper for his two young children. "You dream about something like that happening," said McKay, "but you never think its going to." McKay rushed to the rink, signed an amateur try out contract with Toronto, and put on all of his equipment, including a #73 Toronto Maple Leafs jersey with his name on it. Jonas Gustavsson sat on the bench and acted as the Leafs backup. In reality, Gustavsson couldn't play and if something happened to Rynnas, McKay was the insurance policy. The Leafs ended up losing the game 7-1 with Rynnas playing the entire game. "The whole thing was very surreal and pretty darned cool," said McKay. (4)

Ian Clark

December 23, 2013 Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Curtis McElhinney was injured during the pre-game warmups. Backup Mike McKenna played that days contest against the Carolina Hurricanes but McElhinney wouldn't have been able to take over if McKenna were to get injured. Clark, the Blue Jackets goalie coach, was signed to a player tryout agreement as insurance. Columbus ended up winning the game 4-3 with McKenna playing the whole game and McElhinney not having to move from his post as the injured backup. Although Clark ultimately wasn't needed, the Blue Jackets thanked him by having the contract framed for him. (5)

Troy Passingham
March 22, 2011 Troy Passingham was relaxing at his girlfriend's home in Windsor, Ontario when he received a phone call from the Detroit Red Wings. Passingham had just finished his last season of junior hockey in the OHL and was contemplating his hockey future, which didn't point anywhere near the big leagues. Meanwhile, the Detroit Red Wings were a goalie short with Chris Osgood injured. There was concern that Joey MacDonald, who was recalled, wouldn't make the next day's game against the Vancouver Canucks. As a precaution, the Red Wings phoned Troy Passingham, who practiced with the Red Wings on game day but ultimately wasn't needed as MacDonald made it in time. "Obviously there was a lot of excitement and it was a really long day. You get butterflies, that that's hockey. You've just got to be ready. Maybe, I'll be sitting on the bench. Maybe I'll read a book," said Passingham. (14) The Red Wings were ready to sign Passingham to a 24-hour amateur contract if MacDonald hadn't of made it in time for the game. 
While at Ryerson University in Ontario, Passingham actually got his second and third brief taste of the NHL when he was asked to practice with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2014 and 2015. Both times he filled in for Jonathan Bernier. 

Paul Deutsch

November 23, 2011 the Minnesota Wild were facing off against the Nashville Predators. Early that day Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom left the team to be with his wife as she gave birth to the couple's first child. The Wild were left with a single goalie, Josh Harding, for that night's game. Minnesota recalled AHL goalie Matt Hackett from their affiliate in Houston but with Thanksgiving time travel, the Wild weren't sure if Hackett would make it to the arena in time for the game. Enter old local goaltender Paul Deutsch, who was friends with Wild goalie coach Bob Mason. Wearing jeans, a hoodie and steel toe work boots, the 51 year old was an usual sight entering the Wild dressing room. "Here they were valet parking my minivan," joked Deutsch. "There is a Range Rover in front of me and an Audi behind me and here I've got my four-cylinder minivan with the company logo on the side. The valet guys were dying laughing." Wild GM Chuck Fletcher had Deutsch sign an amateur contract and Deutsch was given a Wild jersey #33 with his name on the back. As game time drew near there was still no sign of Hackett so Deutsch dressed and took part in the pre-game warmup. Unfortunately for Deutsch, Hackett made it just in time for the first period and Deutsch watched the game from the press box. He was still given $500, got to keep his jersey and the Wild framed his contract. (6) 

Pavel Nestak

January 5, 1999 a rash of injuries forced the Calgary Flames to call in an unknown Czech goalie by the name of Pavel Nestak from the Johnstown Chiefs of the ECHL. Calgary had recalled a more experienced goalie in Igor Karpenko from the AHL but they weren't sure if he'd arrive in time for the game. Karpenko was in Saint John, New Brunswick while Nestak was only an hour drive from Pittsburgh, where the Flames were playing the Penguins. Nestak was initially refused entry to the Flames dressing room because nobody knew who he was. Things didn't get much better for the nervous Nestak from there. Assistant coach Rick Preston took him into the dressing to introduce Nestak to the team. "Guys," said Preston, "I'd like you to meet our new goaltender...." Preston stopped, turned to Nestak and asked, "Uh, sorry, but what did you say your name was again?" Nestak wore #34, took the warmup, but retreated to the dressing for the rest of the game after Igor Karpenko arrived in time for the first period. (7)

Floyd Whitney

Dec 21, 1999 Floyd Whitney nearly made NHL history as the league's oldest rookie. A local police officer and father of NHL great Ray Whitney, Floyd Whitney was known to the Oilers because of the many years he had spent as practice goalie with the team. In 1987 and 1988 he was even awarded a Stanley Cup ring by the Oilers to show appreciating for Whitney's work as their practice goalie. At 46, he was about the get the best call of them all from the NHL team. In a game against the Washington Capitals the Oilers lost Bill Ranford to a foot injury during the first period. With only Tommy Salo left to tend goal, and Ranford unable to enter back into the game, the Oilers wanted extra insurance. They called up Whitney, who was in the middle of a little paperwork down the road at his police station. They prepared a contract for Whitney, who didn't sign but would have if Salo was injured. "The Oilers chose not to put Floyd on the bench in fear of the Capitals feeling the team was rubbing in what was a blowout." Whitney put on his goalie gear and watched the last two periods from the dressing room, sporting a new Edmonton Oilers #45 jersey with his name on the back. With just over a minute left in the game Whitney, watching nervously from the dressing room, saw what almost made him the most famous person in Edmonton. Salo went down in a heap, pulling his groin. In discomfort, Salo still managed to play the last bit of the game, not knowing if Whitney was even allowed to relieve him. "He said that if he had known I could have gone in, he would have definitely come out," said Whitney. "When it happened though, I was kind of hopeful. Actually at first when he was down, I thought they were just messing with me." Even though he didn't get to finish the game in net, it was the experience of a lifetime for Whitney. "I was in the game. I was dressed, ready to go. The only thing was I wasn't on the bench. I would have liked to have been on the bench. But it was just an awesome, great night. You know I raced in, I raced to get dressed, I was in the locker room. Afterwards is when it really settled in."
It would have been Whitney's second time as an emergency goalie had he not been watching his son play a junior game out of town in Spokane on February 14, 1990. The Oilers were in a very similar situation and Whitney was their first call. Instead, John Garrett got to fill in. (8)

Paul Wieland - February 13, 1977 the Buffalo Sabres, without injured goalie Gerry Desjardins, recalled rookie Don Edwards, who had yet to play in the NHL. In a surprise move, GM Punch Imlach ordered Sabres coach Floyd Smith, an hour before game-time, to start Edwards instead of veteran goalie Al Smith. Smith was furious with the decision. He waited until just before the game was about to begin, after the anthem had finished, to skate in front of Sabres' owner Seymour Knox seat. He saluted Knox, wished him a cheeky goodbye and left the ice surface, never to play for the Sabres again. Buffalo was left without a backup. Paul Wieland was the Sabres' Public Relations guy and occasionally practiced with the team. The Sabres attempted to sign and dress Wieland as their emergency second goalie. Unfortunately for Wieland, and the Sabres, it was too late to submit his name to the lineup card and Edwards was forced to play his very first NHL game without a backup. (15)

John Garrett - February 14, 1990 the Edmonton Oilers were already short a goalie with Grant Fuhr recovering from an appendectomy. Playing the Washington Capitals, Oilers' goalie Bill Ranford was injured and so was his replacement, Pokey Reddick. Reddick managed to finish the game but Edmonton was rushing to find someone else if Reddick shouldn't be able to continue at any point. The Oilers made a few calls and finally settled on former NHLer John Garrett, who was working at the game as a broadcaster for Hockey Night In Canada. Garrett, a long time NHL goalie, hadn't played since 1985 and joked that, "they say you're only as good as your last game, but I can't remember mine." The Oilers signed him to a one-game contract but didn't bring him out to the bench. "I got into a pair of Grant Fuhr's skates and had Ranford's equipment all laid out." said Garrett. "I thought it was a fun thing except it was a one-goal game. I started worrying, 'What if Reddick gets hurt and I go in and they score on the first shot on me?’" (9) (10) (11)

Dave Dryden - April 14, 1988 the Detroit Red Wings were playing the Toronto Maple Leafs in game 6 of the Norris Division semi-finals. Goalie Glen Hanlon was injured in game 5. His backup, Greg Stefan, was suffering from the flu so the Red Wings turned to Sam St. Laurent. 10 minutes into the game St. Laurent was injured and the sick Stefan was forced into action. Worried that Stefan wouldn't last the whole game, Detroit management rushed to find another goaltender. General Manager Jim Devellano turned to former NHL goalie Dave Dryden, who was in the stands watching as a Red Wings consultant. "The Rules say it's got to be someone on our reserve list, " said Devellano about the hectic search for a backup goalie. "I'm going to ask Dave Dryden. I'll sign him to a contract right here." Devellano wrote up a contract that would have paid Dryden $2000 for a night's work as the emergency goalie but Stefan held up and there was no need to sign the retired NHL goalie. "It certainly made the evening a little more memorable," said Dryden." (12) (13)

Mike Dunham - January 13, 2009 retired NHL goalie Mike Dunham was nearly forced back into action over two year after playing his last NHL game. When the Islanders lost Joey MacDonald just a few minutes into the game, they were nervous leaving the crease to call-up Yann Danis. Dunham, serving as goalie coach for the Islanders, was asked to warm up between periods. Documents were prepared and New York was ready to sign Dunham should Danis get hurt.

Mike R. Brown

The Bruins AHL farm team in Providence needed a goalie for an afternoon game when starter Hannu Toivonen was injured in practice. There wasn't enough time to fly in the usual call-up, Mike Brown, from the ECHL. The Bruins thus sent their NHL backup, Brian Finley, to Providence for a game. In order to comply with CBA rules, the Bruins, even though unscheduled to play, recalled Brown to their NHL club for a day as a warm body. He was an official member of the Boston Bruins roster from November 12 to 13th, 2006. What makes Brown's stay with the Bruins notable is that he got an NHL rookie card for his short time with the Bruins. Under the rules negotiated by the NHLPA and the hockey card distributors, a player has to play in an NHL game to get a rookie card while a goalie just has to dress as a backup. Upper Deck evidently had their statistics wrong and issued an NHL hockey card for Brown when legally, he was not able to have one.

(1) Luke Fox. "Leafs' emergency backup Willows a Habs fan." Sportsnet. Oct. 18, 2013. 
(2) Kevin McGran. "Maple Leafs let U of T goalie Brett Willows' dream come true." Toronto Star. Oct. 18, 2013.
(3) Santino Vasquez. "Help, Is There a Goalie in the House." The Players Tribune. Dec. 21, 2015. 
(4) Cynthia Reason. "Hockey fantasy comes true for Toronto man," Etobicoke Guardian, April 3, 2012. 
(5) Aaron Portzline. "Blue Jackets Notebook: Plan in place in case of goalie injuries in same game." March 5, 2015. 
(6) Johnette Howard. "Paul Deutsch: rags to riches to rags," ESPN. Dec. 1, 2011.
(7) George Johnson. Calgary Herald, Oct. 26, 2002. 
(8) Michael Russo. Sun Sentinel. January 2, 2000. 
(9) Mike Kiley. "Pro Hockey: the week in review." Chicago Tribune Feb. 18, 1990. 
(10) Jim Matheson. "Caps punish Oilers goalies; Reddick, Ranford fall," Edmonton Journal. Feb. 15, 1990.
(11) Jim Matheson. "Hemky's production a let down so far," Edmonton Journal. Oct 17, 2007. 
(12) Associated Press. "Dave Dryden almost signed pact as Wings scrambled for goalies," Toronto Star. April 16, 1988. 
(13) "Dave Dryden nearly recruited by Wings," The Vancouver Sun. April 18, 1988. 
(14) Ben Kuzma "Red Wings' crease conundrum finally solved with Osgood placed on LTIR." The Province. March 23, 2011. 
(15) Sal Maiorana. 100 Things Sabres Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die. Triumph Books, 2012. 

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