It’s been just over a week since an emergency backup goaltender (EBUG) played in net for the Carolina Hurricanes and secured a victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Since that fateful night emotions and opinions about the EBUG in the NHL have been all over the place. Some people love it and some people hate it.
Personally I’m in the camp of individuals who absolutely loves it. I don’t love it so much that I want to see it on a regular basis. Absolutely no one wants to see the emergency goalie come in on a regular basis. Seeing it happen every once in a blue moon though? Absolutely electric. It was the feel good story of the year, until Bobby Ryan netted a hat trick in his first home game back from the substance abuse program that is.
The story of David Ayers was huge. It garnished national headlines. Ayers was on late night shows, morning shows, and all over Twitter. It was the biggest story the NHL has had in several years. In fact it was a historic event. In the hundred plus years of the NHL an EBUG had never won a game. Sure Ayers only stopped 8 of 10 shots and none of the shots were particularly challenging but he won the game. He made the saves he had to and the Canes walked away with a win while an emergency goalie was in net.
An event that created that much positive news about the NHL should have been nothing but good. You would think the NHL would want to publicize this as much as possible. A happy and inspirational story like this is bound to create new fans right? Think about it. If this story gets 150,000 people talking about hockey and only a tenth of them become regular fans that’s 15,000 new fans. That’s enough people to fill the Barclays center. That’s a lot of new revenue the NHL would want to capitalize on right?
Not exactly. While the emergency goalie can be a lot of fun and gives the NHL a lot of good press it is not without downsides. The upside was in full display in this situation. David Ayers, a man who dreamed of playing in the NHL one day, and survived a kidney transplant was able to live out his dream. He was able to work for his dream and he got there at the age of 42. Better late than never right?
Well the downside could have been just as prominent in this situation. The GMs, fans, and analysts that don’t like the EBUG say this could have been a PR disaster. Imagine if this was the last game of the season. Two points, a single win, stand between your favorite team malong the playoffs when disaster strikes. The starting goaltender gets hurt, then the backup goes down. The man tasked to keep your playoff hopes alive is a goaltender who has never played professionally and only practices with the team on occasion. The guy might not even practice for your team. That was the case for David Ayers. He played for the Canes when he was called in and he works for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The writing for a PR nightmare was on the walls. The Toronto Maple Leafs have been in in a crunch for points all year and they could have really used a win in the game. It would have been all too easy for Ayers to throw the game for the Leafs considering he is employed by them. Emergency goalie throws game is a very bad headline compared to Emergency goalie gets first ever win and inspires millions. So it is understandable that the NHL was scared about the situation and wanted to discuss it.
That brings us full circle to the NHL GM meetings in Boca. Ultimately the GM’s decided to do nothing about the situation. They concluded that the EBUG isn’t used enough for it to be an issue. It’s very rare that this happens so why worry is a pretty solid stance to have. The system might break but it only breaks once every 20 something years so who cares.
Only real fix to the situation would be to have more goalies suit up for each game. One proposed “solution” was to have the EBUG be more experienced so that it’s fair. Issue with that solution is that more experience goaltender could still go in for either team. That’s the real issue with the EBUG. There is no way to know which team they could play for, it could be either one. The easy fix in my eyes is to allow more players on the roster. Specifically goaltenders. If your teams two main goalies go down having a designated EBUG for each team would eliminate the randomness of which team the EBUG would play for.
I don’t think the EBUG happens enough to be an issue. From the looks of it neither does the NHL. Let’s let the story of David Ayers play out a bit longer and maybe the league will pick up a few new fans along the way.