They might not be Robb Tallas, but in a pinch at least they’ll be ready.
Two weeks ago the Florida Panthers lost both of their goaltenders in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs and were left scrambling to find a suitable backup.
Roberto Luongo returned from the hospital in street clothes; general manager Dale Tallon was frantically on the phone trying to find a replacement; Luongo and backup Al Montoya both played through injuries that have kept them out of the lineup since; and goalie coach Tallas put on the goalie gear. It was quite the scene in the Sunshine state.
However, through the mass confusion and hysteria from that night the Panthers made light of the situation through a terrific marketing initiative by holding auditions to become the club’s back-up practice netminder for a day through their Goal of a Lifetime competition.
Florida received more than 1,500 applications for the contest from 42 states and 15 countries and narrowed it down to two finalists.
Those finalists are Bill Ruggiero and Dustin Smith, who fought for the coveted title during the second intermission of Tuesday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, which you can see at the top of this post.
Ruggiero, 34, has played professional hockey in the past, last suiting up for the Flint Generals of the International Hockey League during the 2007-08 season.
Smith, 27, played net in college, but also has experience practicing with the Nashville Predators two seasons ago.
Neither, however, have been on a stage like this before. The final competition was played live in front of an arena of Panthers (or Habs) fans on television.
To determine the winner both goalies faced two shooters each over two rounds. The goalie who made the most stops was the winner.
On this night however, both Ruggiero and Smith were winners… seriously.
After the shootout, which saw ex-Panthers Radek Dvorak and Marco Sturm take turns firing on the two netminders, Ruggiero and Smith were named co-winners after they both stopped three of the four shots against.
At the very least Tallon has two more phone numbers he can call if his club is ever in that dire situation again.