Gavin McHale joined one of the most unique groups in sports on Wednesday night.
The Winnipeg personal trainer and goaltending coach for the University of Manitoba Bisons women’s hockey team got the call to be an emergency goalie for the Washington Capitals in their NHL game against the Jets.
With Washington starter Braden Holtby injured, the Capitals had to call on one of the emergency goalies made available by every home team. While McHale didn’t play in the game, the 31-year-old was on the ice for warmups and admitted he was “star struck” when he faced a shot from Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin.
McHale is the latest member of a club with its fair share of wild stories. Here’s a look at some of the recent emergency goalies in the NHL:
The Jets also were involved in one of the most dramatic emergency goalie stories in history.
Scott Foster, 36, became an improbable hero for the Chicago Blackhawks on March 30, 2018 when he stopped all seven shots he faced over the final 14 minutes in the team’s 6-2 win over visiting Winnipeg.
Starter Anton Forsberg was hurt before the game and Collin Delia cramped up during the contest. Enter Foster, a rec-league player and father of two. The crowd chanted ‘Foster, Foster’ as he kept making saves.
“This is something that no one can ever take away from me,” Foster said. “It’s something that I can go home and tell my kids and they can tell their friends. … Just a ton of fun.”
THE VENDING MACHINE WORKER
Tyler Stewart, a 25-year-old St. Louis Blues season-ticket holder, opened a Dec. 7, 2017 game against the Dallas Stars as Jake Allen’s backup after Carter Hutton suffered an injury during the morning skate.
Ville Husso was called up from the AHL, but couldn’t make it on time for puck drop.
Husso arrived with about five minutes left in the first period, and Stewart was sent up to his regular seats to join his wife and mother for the rest of the game. Stewart, a former university goalie, got the call from the Blues after finishing his work shift earlier that day.
“It’s something I’ll never forget,” he said before carrying home a Blues No. 98 jersey. “This was my Christmas present.”
THE EQUIPMENT MANAGER
Jorge Alves is used to being responsible for the Carolina Hurricanes’ equipment, not putting it on for game duty.
But on Dec. 31, 2016 that all changed when the 37-year-old former Marine and minor-league goalie got in for the final 7.6 seconds of a game against the host Tampa Bay Lightning.
Alves became the first emergency goalie to play in the modern era when Hurricanes coach Bill Peters let him live out his dream at the tail end of a 3-1 loss. Eddie Lack was hurt, meaning Carolina needed a backup goalie, and Alves replaced Cam Ward for the final seconds.
Alves also led the team out for the pre-game skate.
“To actually get out there, all of a sudden the lights seemed brighter,” said Alves. “The lights were brighter out there and it was just like, ‘OK this is crazy.'”
THE YOUTH HOCKEY COACH
Eric Sembrowski, a 23-year-old former university goalie, went from his day job teaching kids to play hockey to suiting up in the best league in the world.
On Dec. 3, 2016, Sembrowski was the backup for the Blackhawks against the Philadelphia Flyers when Corey Crawford needed an emergency appendectomy.
He called his time during warmups “the best 15 minutes of hockey ever.”
“It’s definitely a unique situation in sports that really only happens in hockey,” Semborski said.
THE FINANCIAL ADVISER
Nathan Schoenfeld knows all about the NHL, but even he wasn’t prepared for what happened on Feb. 15, 2016.
The 31-year-old son of former Coyotes coach Jim Schoenfeld was giving his five-week-old twin boys a bath when Arizona called the beer-leaguer to see if he could suit up as a goalie.
The Coyotes were in need after Anders Lindback suffered an injury. Schoenfeld backed up Louis Domingue for a win over the Montreal Canadiens.
“I was sitting there and I stayed fully dressed because my (two-year-old) son was coming down to get some photos and I’m just listening to the guys talk and Shane Doan gives me the (team’s) MVP belt,” Schoenfeld said. “When that happened, that was kind of the icing on the cake of the whole thing.”
THE COLLEGE COMMUNITY RELATIONS EMPLOYEE
Tom Fenton was getting a haircut at a barber in New York and preparing for a holiday trip back home to see his parents in Sarnia, Ont., when the Coyotes called him out of desperation on Dec. 16, 2010.
When Ilya Bryzgalov went down with the flu, the Coyotes needed a goalie to serve as backup to Jason LaBarbera. Fenton finally picked up his phone on the sixth try from a local youth hockey president.
“Pick up your phone, you dumb idiot,” Fenton, 26, was told. “You’re going to play for the Phoenix Coyotes at Madison Square Garden.”
The former American International College goalie hustled into Manhattan and had a night to remember.
“It’s a great story just to go home with for Christmas and tell all my friends and family,” he said.
The Canadian Press