So, I recently had the amazing opportunity to try out for the L.A. Kings EBUG(Emergency Back-Up Goalie). Due to more new N.H.L. rules this season, every team is required to have an EBUG on hand for all home games. In the event both goalies go down for a team, the EBUG has to come in and play. The EBUG is available for both teams. For every goalie who never did anything, this is the ultimate dream. I was lucky enough to get the call to tryout and here is how things went.
I arrived at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, CA with very little delusions of actually winning the role of EBUG but I was determined to play my best and have a great time. I got there about an hour early and go to watch the Kings practice, which was fun all on it's own. If you ever get the opportunity to watch an N.H.L. team practice, do it. You get to see their skills up close and personal, plus you'll see plenty of amazing dangles and plays you wouldn't see in a game.
After that, it was time for check-in. A little paperwork with the L.A. Kings Ice Crew and they took your equipment to your assigned locker room; nothing like feeling like a pro for a day, eh? Shortly after that, I was in the locker room with a ton of other goalies chatting it up. They had over a thousand applications to tryout, but only 35 were selected to participate, include 5 women. Surprisingly, there were goalies from all over the country and even Canada. What's more amazing, is that we were notified just 36 hours in advance, so it's pretty crazy some of those guys got out there on such short notice. There was the Vermont University Club Hockey Goalie, just a year out of school who came because his boss gave him his frequent flyer miles. There was the youtube sensation @trav4oilers who flew out of Winnipeg, leaving his junior team behind for a few days just to take a stab at the dream. We had a 58 year old local kid hang tough through the rigorous drills. It was great to meet all of the tendys from the far reaches of the hockey world.
No one really knew what we were going to go through. Some guys actually joked that it was impossible for them to evaluate us all and that we'd barely see any shots. Boy, were they wrong.
We got on the ice and did a little stretching and then they called us over. Bill Ranford(Kings Goalie Coach) introduced himself and the rest of the evaluation staff, including Dusty Imoo(AHL Reign's Goalie Coach). Then he introduced Jaime Storr, who was going to be running the drills he created for the event. When I got into hockey, Storzy was one of the first goalies I looked up to, so this was already pretty cool, not to mention Ranford, an Oiler great and one of the best goalie coaches in the world.
Next, we split into two groups and did some skating drills to warm up. It was hard to hear out there, so pretty much the whole day was follow the leader and hopefully we got it right. After that, we split into 6 small groups, to go around the rink through the 6 stations that Storzy had set up.
The next couple of hours were a whirlwind for me, as we went from drill to drill and I went from save to save, trying not to be star struck as talented instructors and Kings Alumni pelted us with pucks. Among the great Kings present: Nelson Emerson, Jaroslav Modry, Derek Armstrong and the classiest of Kings players ever, Darryl Evans. All of those guys were having fun as well, not just going through the motions to entertain a bunch bush league goalies. Army seemed to have the most fun of them all, constantly trash talking us and taunting us with, "It's too easy".
In the end, I'd like to say I was the best goalie there. I wasn't. It'd be great to say I played my best. I didn't. I did play to my top ability at times and at times I lost my focus, caught up in the moment, like when Storzy was shooting on me and I stumbled in my footwork on a pretty simple drill. I was a little disappointed in myself, but mostly I was just glad to be there and have a one of a kind experience I'll never forget. I definitely won't forget that I had the hands down save of the day: an instructor decided to pull a breakaway on me in a drill, and even though I fell for the fake to my glove side, I managed to push back to my blocker side and pull off a behind the back glove save, robbing him of backhand shelfer, prompting one of the goalies in my group to squack, "Did he just do that?" It was one for the books.
The whole event was one for the books. I didn't make the first cut, none of the beer leaguers did, but I still left with a feeling of pride and amazement. The New Jersey Devils put on a similar event, so hopefully more teams do this next year. The Tendy Union deserves a day like this every once in awhile. Oh yeah, next year? I'm going. I want a piece of Army.
Wolf and Crown
Stories of Legendary Characters.