Gavin McHale, the goaltending coach of the womens ice hockey team at the University of Manitoba, backed up Pheonix Copley.
Chiarot gets Jets game winner in 3-1 victory over Cup champion Capitals
“I dont think I can say those words (when I heard), but (Im) trying to tell everyone I know thats close to me and get to the rink as fast as possible,” McHale said.
The first came nearly 13 minutes into the game, courtesy of a dump-in. Considering Washington was playing on back-to-back nights and started their backup goalie, Pheonix Copley, the Jets didn’t exactly test him. Expected starter Braden Holtby was scratched due to a last-minute upper-body injury, prompting Washington to sign University of Manitoba Bisons women’s hockey team goalie coach Gavin McHale as an emergency backup.
Manitoba Bisons goalie coach serves as backup for Washington Capitals against Winnipeg Jets
McHale, a 31-year-old Winnipeg resident, last played for the schools mens team in 2008-09. Before that, he played in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, Alberta Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League.
“Its definitely not something I thought would happen in the last 10 years since the career took a downturn,” he said. “But it was a pretty exciting experience.”
“I was hoping no one saw that. Ah, pretty star-struck,” McHale said. “And then star-struck for the next three or four after that until I kind of settled in and the guys said a couple of things to me.”
McHale (6-foot-7, 200 pounds) was the emergency backup for the Colorado Avalanche for the third period of a 6-2 loss to the Jets on Feb. 16, after Jonathan Bernier entered the NHL concussion protocol following the second period. McHale, who said he is one of five emergency backups available in Winnipeg, did not play.
“The other time was with Colorado and it was kind of late in the game, so it was a little bit of a different experience than getting the whole pregame experience and all that,” McHale said.
Last season, Scott Foster, a 36-year-old accountant who played goalie at Western Michigan University, made seven saves on seven shots against the Jets for the Chicago Blackhawks on March 29. Chicago won 6-2.
“I was hoping no one saw that. Pretty starstruck. And then starstruck for the next three or four after that until I kind of settled in. It’s definitely not something that I thought would happen. It was a pretty exciting experience.”
Copley made 21 saves in his second straight start for Washington. He made 26 saves in a 5-2 win at the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.
“I got here as fast as I could, told everyone I knew. It was about 5:15 p.m. and I was coming from the south end,” McHale said. “Had to fight a bit of traffic. I was weaving my way in and out. I didn’t have dinner.”
Capitals coach Todd Reirden said they are not sure if a goalie will have to be recalled from the minor leagues to take Holtbys place on the road trip, which continues at the Avalanche on Friday (9 p.m. ET; ALT, NBCSWA+, NHL.TV).
“Were going to evaluate again and hes going to get looked at again tomorrow morning and see how hes reacting to some treatment hes getting,” Reirden said.
Capitals need emergency backup with Holtby out
As with all visiting backups at Bell MTS Place, McHale did not sit on the Capitals bench, but instead was stationed at the end of the tunnel to the visitors dressing room, across the ice from their bench and in the corner.
“The anthems were definitely a lot different at ice level than in the press box, thats for sure,” McHale said. “I think the biggest thing is that every guy in here was so nice to me and made me feel so good. Just to be a person is a really important piece of what hockey players are. This was a pretty successful team last year, so to be welcomed in like that in a bit of a crazy situation was a pretty nice feeling.”
A University of Manitoba hockey coach got called up to the big league when he was added to the roster of the Stanley Cup champions for a game against the Winnipeg Jets Wednesday evening.
The Washington Capitals, who lost to the Jets 3-1 in Winnipeg Wednesday, called on emergency backup goalie Gavin McHale after the team's regular starter, Braden Holtby, couldn't play due to an upper-body injury.
"We've been talking about getting on a bit of a roll here," Chiarot said after Winnipeg's third straight victory. "We're excited, the Stanley Cup champs coming to town you want to bring your best effort."
Caps sit Braden Holtby late with upper-body injury, sign 6-7 emergency backup goalie
Regular backup Pheonix Copley played the entire game, but McHale dressed for the team and got a chance to warm up with the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie.
"You know, I was totally star-struck, and then the nerves started to set in, realizing the situation at hand," said McHale, 30, in the Capitals' locker room after the game.
"And then I settled in as the game got going, and the normalcies of hockey kind of took over."
McHale, a Winnipeg trainer and goaltending coach for the U of M women's team, said he was just wrapping up a practice with the team Wednesday afternoon when he glanced at his phone and saw a stack of missed calls from Jets assistant general manager Craig Heisinger and a Pennsylvania phone number.
"I got here as fast as I could, basically — told everyone I knew and got here as fast as I could," McHale said.
"I was coming from the south end so I had to fight a bit of traffic but I was weaving my way in and out."
“They got a lot of skill, their power play is deadly — theyre a good team, they won the Stanley Cup last year. They got a lot of good pieces and they move the puck really well. As a whole team, every lines got to be prepared for them. It will be a fun challenge again tonight.” — Jets forward Mark Scheifele
"And then star-struck for the next three or four after that until I kind of settled in and the guys said a couple things to me. So it was good."
McHale is one of a few emergency goalies the Jets have recruited to suit up in just such a circumstance — rare though it is.
Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine, the top two goal-scorers in the NHL since the start of the 2016-17 season, will meet when the Washington Capitals visit the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place on Wednesday.
"I think every single person in this room introduced themselves to me," McHale said of the Capitals' locker room. "It just made me feel a lot more calm, and they just kind of let me do my thing. I mean, they had to get ready for a game so … it just made me feel really welcomed."
"I think the biggest thing is … every guy in here was so nice to me and made me feel so good, that you know, just to be a good person — it's a really important piece of what hockey players are."
It's not often NHL teams call up an emergency backup, but it's the second time McHale, who is listed as 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds, has dressed for a team.
In February, McHale was notified just after the second intermission in a game against the Colorado Avalanche that he would have to don an Avalanche jersey.
Colorado goalie Jonathan Bernier had been hit in the head during the second period of play and was replaced by backup Semyon Varlamov to start the third period, with McHale rushing to get dressed as a contingency — although he didn't play that night, either.
Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden said it's a unique situation to have to call on emergency backups. The NHL adjusted its rules last summer to require that teams have emergency goalies present for all home games ready to fill in for either team.
"He was great coming into the room and talking to our guys. I liked having him around," Reirden said.
"There's a lot up in the air and hopefully we weren't going to have to use him — but at the same time he has to be ready."
The Jets also came up against an emergency backup goalie last year, when the Chicago Blackhawks lost goalies Anton Forsberg and Collin Delia to injuries and called 36-year-old accountant Scott Foster.
The former college goalie stopped all seven shots he faced over the final 14 minutes of the game, and the Blackhawks skated to a 6-2 victory over the Jets.
"The initial shock happened when I had to dress. I think you just kind of black out after that," Foster told The Associated Press at the time.
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