There may not be a more charmingly ad hoc tradition than hockey’s emergency goaltender. If one of a team’s two goalies gets hurt or otherwise incapacitated before a game with not enough time to fly in a backup from the minors, the NHL maintains a list of potential goalies in each city—older guys with careers, probably played a little college hockey, have some connection to the team—who can report and sign at a moment’s notice, and, if things go well, get to sit on the bench and never ever get into a game.
The Coyotes’ Anders Lindback suffered an off-ice injury hours before Arizona hosted the Canadiens last night, so they went to the rolodex and found Nathan Schoenfeld, 31, whose most outstanding qualification might be that his father-in-law is the team’s equipment manager. Schoenfeld got the text message about an hour before puck drop, while he was in the middle of bathing his twin five-week-old boys.
He hopped in the car and made it to the arena in about a half-hour. Along the way he called his father, former Coyotes coach and current Rangers assistant GM Jim Schoenfeld, to ask if New York had any scouts in the stands.
“I said, ‘Well if you do, let them know to check out the backup goaltender tonight,” Schoenfeld said.
Schoenfeld, who works as a bank manager, has been around the team dating back to when his father was coach. Though he skates with the alumni, he hasn’t played in an actual competitive hockey game since he last played club hockey at Arizona State in 2006.
“I don’t think I’m game-ready but ready in case they need me to sit on the bench,” Schoenfeld said.
He did indeed get to sit on the bench and watch starter Louis Domingue make 17 saves in a 6-2 win over Montreal. Head coach Dave Tippett said he wanted to see if Schoenfeld would chirp players from his perch, like a true backup, but “he was pretty quiet.”
In the locker room, Schoenfeld was awarded the Yotes’ championship belt, and Martin Hanzal, after a three-point night, declared him the team’s lucky charm. For what will officially go down as an amateur tryout, Schoenfeld will be paid $500 and get to keep his game jersey.