The topic of emergency backup goalies has been taking the hockey world by storm recently ever since the phenomenal story of 42-year-old David Ayres suiting up for the Carolina Hurricanes last Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Emergency backup goalies (EBUGs) are not often thought about but are important should something happen to the starting goaltender and backup. Let’s take a look at one of the Washington Capitals’ EBUGs named Trevor Hanger, a political strategist by day and a backup NHL player by night.
First of all, what is the role of an emergency backup goaltender?
In regular League and Playoff games, if both listed goalkeepers are incapacitated, that team shall be entitled to dress and play any available goalkeeper who is eligible. This goalkeeper is eligible to sit on the player’s bench, in uniform. In the event that the two regular goalkeepers are injured or incapacitated in quick succession, the third goalkeeper shall be provided with a reasonable amount of time to get dressed, in addition to a two-minute warm-up (except when he enters the game to defend against a penalty shot). If, however, the third goalkeeper is dressed and on the bench when the second goalkeeper becomes incapacitated, the third goalkeeper shall enter the game immediately and no warm-up is permitted.
— 2019-20 NHL Rule Book; Section 2, Rule 5.3
The Capitals have four EBUGs who rotate throughout the season. Hanger grew up playing hockey and continued playing in college. He was contacted before the 2017-18 season and was thrilled for the opportunity. Hanger has yet to make his NHL debut but told the Washingtonian, “You can’t help but wonder if it’s gonna happen to you, because there’s at least a small chance that it could.”
They renew their commitments at the beginning of each season; however, Hanger is unsure if it will be a long-term side appearance.
What happens if Hanger is on call?
If there is a chance a player might be/get hurt, he will usually show up for warmups and head to the stands afterward. For games he is assigned to, Hanger stores his gear in his car in the garage under the arena. He also gets two tickets to the assigned games.
Photo: Trevor Hanger
Has Hanger ever been on call?
Remember last season when Braden Holtby left the second period with a high-stick to the face of the Capitals-Columbus Blue Jackets game on January 12? It was important for Hanger to quickly dress and prepare in case something happened to backup goalie Pheonix Copley. We never saw him on the bench as he waited in the locker room until the game was over. Hanger also told the Washingtonian, “You also know that you’re watching a guy and if something happens to him, if he tweaks a hamstring or if he gets clocked in the head and is seeing stars, you’re there.”
Have the Capitals had to use other EBUGs previously?
Yes! The recent time came on November 14, 2018, when Holtby was a scratch due to a lower-body injury resulting in Copley getting the start that night. Gavin McHale, who is a goaltending coach with the University of Manitoba women’s hockey team in Winnipeg, served as the emergency backup goalie. McHale never played but it shows the readiness when needed.
Another time was on December 12, 2008, when Jose Theodore had sustained a hip flexor injury during a morning skate. The Capitals’ website producer, Brett Leonhardt (currently video/assistant coach) dressed as an EBUG for backup goalie Brent Johnson. Leonhardt had only dressed for a part of the first period for former Capitals’ goaltender Semyon Varlamov (now with the New York Islanders) during a delayed recall situation.
Photo: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
After the viral story of Ayres, there have been talks around the league about the EBUGs rules. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said, “It’s something we’ve given some consideration to over the years. As recently as last year, we discussed [it] with the general managers. It happens very, very rarely, but when it happens, it obviously raises everybody’s attention to the issue and whether there are fixes that need to be made to that particular issue.”
The emergency backup goalie procedure is rumored to be discussed in next week’s NHL general managers meeting, which starts on Monday in Boca Raton, Florida.
By Della Young