TORONTO – Eamon McAdam had to pause his FaceTime session with one of his hockey-loving buddies from back home in Perkasie, Pa., when his phone alit with an incoming call from Mike Dixon at 11:30 a.m. Monday morning.
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ director of minor league operations needed to let the ECHL goaltender know that his promotion just got a promotion.
McAdam, who was rated sixth on the organization’s depth chart, was going from the farm team’s farm team to the big time overnight.
With Leafs starter Frederik Andersen tweaking his knee Saturday in Washington and the swelling persisting, backup Garret Sparks was tasked on short notice with a start versus Los Angeles, and McAdam was recalled from St. John’s on an emergency basis.
"It was a whirlwind for sure," smiles McAdam, who couldn’t wait to flip back to his FaceTime session and relay the giddy news. "I quickly told him, then called my mom and dad. I almost gave them a heart attack.
"It caught me by surprise, but it was really cool. Bright-eyed and bushytailed is the perfect phrase. I couldn’t get the smile off my face. Just an unbelievable experience all around. The team did really well, and it was a fun game to watch."
The ravaging of the Maple Leafs’ once-rich goaltending well over the past two weeks shows just of how fast things can shift.
NHL-calibre netminders Curtis McElhinny (Carolina) and Calvin Pickard (Philadelphia) were both scooped off the waiver wire when the Leafs made their final roster cuts out of training camp.
"Good for Mac. Good for Pick. Too bad for our depth," coach Mike Babcock summed up at the time.
The situation grew more dire once new Marlies No. 1 Kasimir Kaskisuo fell victim to a serious lower-body injury that will keep him sidelined "longer-term," according to Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe.
Babcock assured that Andersen is healthy enough to start Thursday at Scotiabank Arena versus Pittsburgh (the Penguins’ No. 1, Matt Murray, is also returning from injury), but Andersen did not speak to reporters Thursday and when he spoke Tuesday, after leaving practice early, the goalie expressed concern about managing swelling and movement.
When he’s not holding summits with RFA William Nylander in Switzerland, Leafs GM Kyle Dubas is poking around the market to bolster his goaltending. The belief is that when Philly’s Michal Neuvirth and Carolina’s Scott Darling come off IR for their respective clubs, Pickard or McElhinney could reappear on the waiver wire, in which case Toronto would have first dibs. (Another possibility in the Hurricanes’ Peter Mrazek, whom Babcock coached in Detroit and memorably chose as his No. 1 over Jimmy Howard for a spell.)
"I’m pretty comfortable," Babcock said of the Leafs’ net depth. "The one thing about the league is, things all kinda settle out over time. Usually goalies become available. I’m comfortable with Sparks’ second game [Monday’s 4-1 win over L.A.] and how he’s started at practice, so that’s a real good thing."
Albeit minor, Andersen’s injury has put everyone on notice. On the flip side, it granted McAdam — a seemingly inconsequential piece of this summer’s Matt Martin salary-dump trade with the Islanders — with 48 hours he’ll never forget.
You gotta love an emergency backup goalie tale.
Coincidentally, the first professional hockey game McAdam had ever seen live was in the same Bay Street building he rushed to Monday.
"I watched the Leafs play the Sens when I was a kid. We were visiting friends. So it’s kind of a weird coincidence that this is the first place I got to dress for a game as well," McAdam says. "Pretty crazy."
For his NHL roster debut, the 24-year-old was handed a sweater stitched with 60, a number previously only worn by one warm body in 101 years of Maple Leafs lore: Carlton the Bear.
McAdam chuckles when we tell him he was wearing the same sweater as the polar bear high-fiving kids in the stands.
"In unique company," McAdam laughs. "I’ve worn a million numbers. I usually switch every team I go to, actually. I like changing it up. They just threw this to me. I’m 50 with the Marlies and I’m 35 down in St. John’s, so I’m all over the map."
After winning his Newfoundland Growlers debut and stopping the first half-dozen shots he faced from the NHL’s hottest forwards during Monday’s warm-up, McAdam — a .910 goalie for the Worcester Railers last season — was feeling himself.
"‘Oh, this is easy. I’m gonna be great,’" he thought. "Then I jumped into the half-moon and let in four out of four. Tavares scored on me. A couple other guys just ripped them by me. All right, there’s reality."
As he speaks, McAdam is seemingly still riding an emotional wave. Auston Matthews leaned on him to win a fun bet with Jake Gardiner at Tuesday’s practice, and a room full of established NHLers made a point of making him feel at ease.
"Early on in practice, I was getting torched pretty good. I had to adjust to the pace. It takes a couple minutes to seeing these releases and just the quality of players that are here," McAdam says. "It’s been a really smooth experience. There’s a lot of really good guys in this group you can tell by how many guys reached out and made me feel at home a bit."
The irony is, neither the Leafs nor McAdam is hoping the longshot sees any actual NHL action in the coming weeks.
"I calmed myself down enough that I would’ve been level-headed enough to go in if I had to, but you never want to wish you’re going in. You want the team to win, and you never wish injuries on anyone," McAdam says.
"I have to wait for my moment, but it was a step in the right direction — a cool way to get the first one under the belt."