The NHL seemingly thinks they have a problem with their emergency backup goaltender situation, so let’s think up some alternatives for them.
The best story to come out of the NHL since the St. Louis Blues’ “play Gloria!” moments that culminated in their 2019 Stanley Cup victory has no doubt been the sudden stardom of EBUG Dave Ayres.
If for some reason you missed it, after losing both their goaltenders to injury during a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs over the weekend, the Carolina Hurricanes had to put in 42-year-old emergency backup goaltender Ayres (who is a zamboni driver!), and the team won! Ayres stopped eight of ten shots against the Maple Leafs in nearly 30 minutes of playing time in a 6-3 win for the Hurricanes, putting together an inspiring performance worthy of a Disney movie or two.
While the world at large celebrated Ayres’ story — he even made an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert! — the NHL began what it always does best when the sport has too much fun, it panicked. In the days following Ayres’ performance, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly stated that EBUG procedures are expected to be discussed at the general managers’ meetings next week.
“It’s something we’ve given some consideration to over the years. As recently as last year, we discussed [it] with the general managers,” Daly said to NHL.com. “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.”
This particular bit of hand-wringing is nothing new for the NHL. When enforcer John Scott made the NHL All-Star Game in 2016 as the result of a, at first, mocking campaign which then turned into a heartwarming story, the league proceeded to make a rule restricting the fan vote so it could never happen again.
There are some legitimate gripes with the EBUG system as it stands. At 42-years-old, Ayres could have been hurt himself in the game. While he’s the Maple Leafs practice goaltender, there’s a difference between practice time and a real, live NHL game. There’s also the gripe from a handful of — Toronto-based — media members that an EBUG could negatively impact a hockey game for a playoff contender.
Of course, the Maple Leafs could have put more than 10 shots on goal against Ayres during the game, but instead… that pesky EBUG!
As such, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to propose a handful of very real solutions the NHL should look into to solve their EBUG “problem” as it stands. Not like this situation has happened only twice since 1965 anyway, but we digress!
EBUG age limit
For those concerned about Ayres’ health, instituting an age limit on the EBUG may quiet some detractors. Limiting an EBUG to a local 20-some-year-old goaltender — from college or other local youth hockey institution — may at least quiet the fears that an EBUG of the future would get seriously injured if above the age of 40.
Put a player in net
Much like how baseball can have a position player pitch should the team run out of useable pitchers, the NHL could utilize a similar mechanic of putting a player in pads should both their netminders go down. Of course, this brings up its own set of problems, as goaltending is a much different position than forward or defense, and could also injure a player if they’re not used to the position.
However, one player from each team could maybe dedicate some practice time to learning the position… just in case, you know?
Put a fan in net
An EBUG is really a glorified fan anyway when you think about it.
Pay to put a third, auxiliary goaltender on each team
Ha, like the NHL will want to pay for another player on 31 — soon to be 32 — teams. That’s what undid the discussions about the EBUG last time they were brought up.
Instead of an EBUG, make hockey teams go 6-on-5 for the rest of the game
Lose both your goalies? Tough luck! Time to play with an empty net and no goaltender to save you. The chaos of this idea is too great to fathom, especially in a playoff hypothetical, which is why the NHL won’t do it.
Put one of those Shooter Tutors in net
Yes, these things you sometimes see hockey players practice with. It basically does a goaltender’s job anyway, so why not?
Put Gritty in net
Gritty is everywhere anyway. I’m sure he’s free to be an EBUG if the situation calls for it.
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