On Wednesday, November 23, Paul Deutsch made his NHL debut. He was 51 years old, and joined the exclusive “NHL goalie for a day” club.
Since 2003, there have been eight members, including Deutsch, and I thought it would be cool to find out the details of each goalie’s big day.
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As for Deutsch, Minnesota’s starter, Niklas Backstrom, had to be scratched from the November 23rd game vs. the Nashville Predators for personal reasons. This left Josh Harding to start, but there was no backup. Matt Hackett was recalled from the minors, but he would not make it in time to start the game. As per NHL rules, the Wild needed a backup goalie to start the game, so they called Deutsch, a 51-year-old shop owner who sometimes filled in as a goalie in practice, and signed him to a one-day contract.
Fortunately for the Wild, Hackett made it to the arena in time after all, and Deutsch only had time to participate in the warm ups before being scratched.
Paul Deutsch (R) with teammate Brad Staubitz during warmups. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
But he is not the first amateur goalie to be pressed unexpectedly into action for an NHL team in desperate need of a goalie. Here’s a list of seven others who got the call, spent five minutes telling their buddy to quit joking around, realised it wasn’t their buddy, and ultimately suited up for an NHL game.
1. Chris Levesque (Vancouver Canucks) – December 9, 2003
The morning of a game against Pittsburgh, Vancouver’s Dan Cloutier injured his groin, and Johan Hedberg stepped in to start. The Manitoba Moose were on an east coast road trip, too far away for Alex Auld to make it in time, so the Canucks signed UBC Thunderbirds’ second backup goaltender, Chris Levesque, to a one-game contract. Levesque almost missed his chance, as no one could find him at first – he was studying in a campus library.
During the game, Hedberg went down after a collision, and the camera panned to Levesque’s wide-eyed expression. Fortunately, Hedberg recovered and finished the game. Hedberg later revealed he had broken his wrist on the play, but had stayed in net because of the situation.
Chris Levesque (L) with Brent Sopel. (CP PHOTO/Chuck Stoody)
2. Aaron Sorochan (Edmonton Oilers) – December 21, 2007
Dwayne Roloson came down with the flu prior to Edmonton’s game against New Jersey, meaning Mathieu Garon got the start and the Oilers were left scrambling to find a backup goalie. University of Alberta Golden Bears’ Aaron Sorochan, 23, was their man. Sorochan signed an amateur try-out agreement and warmed the bench as he watched his temporary team lose 3-1 to the Devils. He would go on to play in the AHL and ECHL.
3. Brett Leonhardt (Washington Capitals) – December 12, 2008
Washington was preparing to host Ottawa when Jose Theodore suffered an injury during the morning skate. Semyon Varlamov was recalled, but he was in Texas on a road trip, and wouldn’t make the start of the game in time. Fortunately, the Capitals had… their website producer. Brett Leonhardt, a former NCAA Div III goalie, would occasionally practice with the team, and so he was quickly signed to a tryout contract to back up Brent Johnson. Varlamov arrived nine minutes into the first period to replace him on the bench, leaving Leonhardt six minutes short of his fifteen minutes of fame.
Brett Leonhardt (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
4. Torrie Jung (Edmonton Oilers) – November 21, 2009
Edmonton Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin had his back stiffen up, leaving Jeff Deslauriers to start against Chicago, but no backup. Torrie Jung, goalie for the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings, got the call. Jung had been drafted by Tampa Bay in 2007, but never signed a contract. He was invited to the Oilers’ rookie camp in 2009, hence how his name was known to the team, but was not offered a contract.
After Deslauriers gave up three early goals, the possibility of Jung coming in as relief became real. Deslauriers stayed in net, and Jung stayed on the bench, soaking up the experience.
5. Tom Fenton (Phoenix Coyotes) – December 16, 2010
Phoenix’s Ilya Bryzgalov came down with the flu, but the game was in New York and the Coyotes’ minor leaguers in Texas. Goaltending coach Sean Burke was considered to fill in, but he would have had to spend 24 hours on waivers, having once been a professional player. So the team signed Tom Fenton, a worker in a community relations department at a local college, to back up Jason LaBarbera. Fenton had played four years of college hockey, quitting the sport in 2009.
Tom Fenton (R) watching teammate Scottie Upshall. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
6. Nathan Deobald (Edmonton Oilers) – March 23, 2010
Making their third appearance on this list, and second during the 2009-10 season, Edmonton was once again forced to call upon an amateur backup after Devan Dubnyk contracted the flu prior to an Oilers’ game against Vancouver. Jeff Deslauriers – the goalie who also played in front of Jung earlier that year – got the start, and with Jung on the west coast, the Golden Bears’ team at the Nationals, and Edmonton’s AHL affiliate too far away, the team had to scramble to find a backup goalie. Nathan Deobald, 26, goalie for the University of Calgary Dinos, got the call. (Actually, he missed the call at first, as he was in class. But he checked his messages in time.)
7. Jordan White (San Jose Sharks) – January 20, 2011
San Jose’s Antero Niittymaki was injured last-minute before a game in Vancouver, so the team signed UBC Thunderbirds’ goalie Jordan White to a one-day contract to back up Antti Niemi. White, 22, was the Thunderbirds’ starting goaltender in his second year at UBC. He, unlike many others, believed the news when told – he remembered Levesque suiting up for the Canucks several years earlier, and knew this sort of situation occasionally occurred. Not that that calmed his nerves, of course, although knowing the Sharks’ Devon Setoguchi from their Junior A days together may have helped.
Jordan White, right, sits on the bench with Joe Thornton.(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)