When Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer was injured 0:32 into Thursday’s game against the Hurricanes, Jonathan Bernier took over in the net. While one goalie replacing another is no outstanding occurrence in hockey, Toronto was faced with a dilemma: what happens if Bernier goes down, too?
Luckily, the Leafs were able to call on a couple of locals in University of Toronto goalies Michael Nishi and Brett Willows. The latter arrived at the Air Canada Centre and suited up, on stand-by while Bernier allowed a late goal in a 3-2 loss. Nishi suited up the next day at practice alongside Bernier and Reimer.
They aren’t the first team to find a what amounts to a random goalie off the street, sign him to a one-day contract, and sit him on the bench in case of a serious problem. In face, the NHL, a forward-thinking league, has a protocol for such situations. From Rule 5.3: Goalkeeper:
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.
Over the past few seasons, the practice has made some headlines, with everyday people getting to play out their professional hockey fantasy, for at least part of a game.