Last November, the Minnesota Wild were in desperate need of a backup goalie for a game against the Nashville Predators and did the only thing they could. They went to a 51-year-old beer-league goalie named Paul Deutsch and signed him to an amateur tryout contract.
He never had to play, but his story was pretty spectacular and the closest thing you will see to a team having to pull a guy out of the stands to suit up and play.
And now they're holding tryouts to find their next "emergency goalie" in the event they're facing such a situation again.
From the Wild:
After exhaustive YouTube viewing, scouring stats on hockeydb.com, and scouting various beer leagues across the State of Hockey, 11 goaltenders have been selected to compete in an on-ice tryout for the preliminary round of Bud Light's Search for the Next Paul Deutsch.
The 11 goalies will audition for Wild Goaltending Coach Bob Mason, Wild Television Analyst and former NHL goalie Mike Greenlay, and legendary Wild emergency netminder Paul Deutsch on Thursday, Nov. 15.
After the tryout, two finalists will be invited to take part in a shootout against celebrity shooters during the second intermission of the Houston Aeros vs. Rockford IceHogs game at 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18 at Xcel Energy Center. The goalie that does the best in the shootout will be named the Wild's next emergency goaltender, with the runner-up named next in line. The two finalists will receive an authentic Wild jersey with their name and number on the back and a Bud Light Prize Pack courtesy of Bud Light.
The Wild had to sign Deutsch last season when their starter, Niklas Backstrom, was unavailable due to his wife going into labor that day, leaving the team with only backup Josh Harding. But then he needed a backup for the game.
There was concern top prospect Matthew Hackett would not be able to make it to the arena on time after being called up from Houston, leading to the Wild having to scramble to find somebody to fill in until he was able to arrive at the Xcel Energy Center.
The chances of the winner of this contest ever being needed are as close to zero as you can get (but yes, I guess there is a chance). Teams only go this route in the most desperate of situations, and can usually find a player in another professional league or junior league who can step in on an emergency basis (example: back in 2010 the Penguins, after running out of goalies on a West Coast trip, brought in one of their recent draft picks, Alexander Pechurskiy, and signed him to a one-day amateur tryout contract -- and he had to actually play that night, stopping 12 of the 13 shots he faced against the Vancouver Canucks).
But it does happen once every blue moon, and at least this way the Wild would be somewhat prepared for it and know who they have to call.