Two years ago today, the unthinkable happened. Scott Foster, a 36-year-old accountant who played in a beer league and tended goal at Western Michigan University over ten years ago, was called upon by the Chicago Blackhawks.
Foster was the emergency backup goalie on March 29, 2018 when the Hawks were facing the Winnipeg Jets at the United Center. Anton Forsberg was slated to start in net for Chicago but suffered a pregame injury.
Collin Delia made his NHL debut ahead of schedule and was having a solid outing until he was injured with 14:01 left in the third period with the Hawks up 6-2. Foster was forced to suit up and head out onto the ice past a laughing Joel Quenneville and a delightfully stunned Blackhawks bench.
To put the finishing touches on his Cinderella story, Foster stopped all seven shots he faced, including a Dustin Byfuglien slap shot.
The emergency backup goalie drew chants from a sold-out United Center (who, somehow, collectively already knew his name), seemingly with every save.
“That’s something you’ll never forget. You understand what’s happening, and they’re going to have a lot of fun with it, so you might as well too," Foster told Blackhawks media in the dressing room after the game.
In addition to Delia's debut that night, Brent Seabrook played his 1,000th NHL game, and Dylan Sikura picked up two assists in his NHL debut.
After his night, Foster declined further interviews, wanting to go back to his normal life. Later that summer, he presented the Vezina trophy at the NHL Awards and made his first appearance at the Blackhawks Convention. Since then, he flies under the radar for the most part.
Then, there's David Ayres, who was called upon as an EBUG a little over a month ago by the Carolina Hurricanes on the road against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ayres, a 42-year-old Zamboni driver for the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies, came into the game midway through the second period with Canes goalies Petr Mrazek and James Reimer being injured beforehand.
The start of the game wasn't so magical for Ayres. He allowed two goals on the first two shots he faced. But he stuck with it and ended up saving eight of 10 shots over a 29-minute span across two periods, and put a shot on net in the Hurricanes' 6-3 win over the Maple Leafs, who Ayres had occasionally filled in for at practices.
He became the oldest goalie in NHL history to win a regular season debut and the first EBUG to be credited with a win in an NHL game (Foster didn't play long enough). His stick was sent to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Ayres' wife, Sarah, live-tweeted his debut and, like Foster, his story was a media sensation. Unlike Foster, Ayres kept it going.
His whirlwind media tour over the next few days included a stop in New York and a plethora of interviews, including NBC's “Today” show and a monologue bit on CBS’ "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert."
He signed autographs for fans at a Canes game, and Carolina sold Ayres t-shirt jerseys with the EBUG receiving royalties and a portion of the proceeds going to a kidney foundation.
So which last line of defense handled their situation appropriately?
Why not both?
Foster lived a dream, too, but embraced who he really was and the life he really had. He still appreciates a close association with the Hawks, honoring more obligations with them and remaining an EBUG with the team.
Ayres, several years older than Foster, soaked it all in and Stretch-Armstronged his 15 minutes of fame to span several days. During that time, he also advocated for kidney transplants, being a kidney transplant survivor himself.
Two different games. Two different goalies. Two different ways to handle the most unique situation in professional sports. And one correct outlook on how their stories unfolded before our eyes: Awesome.
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