If the starting goaltender and the backup are both injured, who fills in?
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The world is filled with endless hypothetical questions and the Vancouver Canucks recently pondered one of their own.
If Curtis Sanford was forced to leave last Saturday’s game in Pittsburgh with Roberto Luongo already injured, who would have stepped in?
Luongo suffered a groin strain less than five minutes into Vancouver’s 3-1 win over the Penguins, Sanford was quick to ditch the ball cap and throw his goalie mask on in relief.
Shortly after replacing Luongo, Sanford was trampled by Jordan Staal. With the Sandman down in his crease, everyone started questioning whom his replacement was going to be if he couldn’t get up.
Sanford did, much to the relief of the Canucks, but when Sidney Crosby rushed the Vancouver crease on a scoring chance in the third period, he hit the deck again.
The Canucks bench stayed calm despite Sanford’s ability to remain in the game in question, or at least it looked that way. Turns out there was a lot of finger pointing going on as the players tried to narrow down who would close out the game between the pipes.
Luckily Sanford was fine, just a little shaken up, so he completed the game.
During the broadcast, Dan Murphy, host of Rogers Sportsnet Pacific, hinted that Canucks assistant equipment manager Jamie Hendricks would have been Sanford’s likely replacement had a third goalie been needed.
After much debate, it turns out that wouldn’t have been the case.
“It has to be a signed player because they’ve already submitted the roster,” said Hendricks, who has suited up as a practice goaltender for the Canucks before.
“The game had already started so it would have had to been a defenceman or a forward I think.”
According to NHL’s official rulebook, Hendricks is right.
Rule 5.2 and 5.3 in section 2 state two important things: 5.2 – “Only players and goalkeepers on the list submitted to the Official Scorer before the game may participate in the game;” 5.3 – “Except when both goaltenders are incapacitated, no player in the playing roster in that game shall be permitted to wear the equipment of the goalkeeper.”
“I don’t know what would happen really,” said Alain Vigneault.
“In Pittsburgh they asked us if we had an extra goaltender in the rink, nobody has that. So I guess you just have to do what they did in the old days, have a player suit up and put the equipment on…there’s a lot of ifs there, if, if, if, if.”
Realistically, one of the 18 players on Vancouver’s roster would have been forced to man the net and at the time, forward Ryan Johnson looked to be that player.
“He gets in front of every puck and he does a very good job at it, so I’d definitely trust him in the net,” said Mike Brown.
Alex Burrows also said that Johnson would have been his pick “because he’s an unbelievable shot blocker, he probably would have been really good in there.”
Despite being rumoured to have goaltending experience, Johnson has never played the position so there was no chance he was going in net.
“When it happened everyone was looking up and down the bench at me,” explained Johnson.
“I have no idea why they were looking at me; I was really sweating thinking I might have to go in.”
Brown, who was along for the Eastern road trip but didn’t dress for any games but was on the roster, would have gotten consideration if the goaltending vacancy had arisen, he was just lounging in the press box anyways.
“I was joking around with the guys in the locker room because I would have had no problems suiting up and jumping in goal,” laughed Brown.
“I have absolutely no experience, but I think it would have been fun. It doesn’t look that hard, but I’m assuming once you’re in there and you’re facing guys that have a pretty hard shot, over 100 miles an hour, it might not be too easy to get in front of it.”
Burrows was more than willing to suit up against the Penguins as well, and at least he has a little familiarity with the position.
Growing up Burrows adored being in net, whether it was playing street hockey or the real on ice deal.
“I remember my first few years my team didn’t have a goalie so we would alternate going into net during the year and when it was my turn I used to love it.
“I thought it was the coolest thing. I was growing up in Montreal then and Patrick Roy was a star, maybe that’s why I liked it.”
In reality, the Canucks didn’t have to choose anyone to replace Sanford, and most people are grateful for that.
In a fantasy world, two other members of Vancouver’s organization could most likely fill in if push came to shove in the future.
Take Rob Brathwaite, manager of hockey development and alumni for the Canucks. He used to play in a summer men’s league with the pro players, he has also sported the goalie gear to help out when needed during practice and his brother Fred Brathwaite has appeared in 254 NHL games.
“It would be kind of nerve wracking I think, but it would be fun,” said Brathwaite. “It would be a selfish thing though, I don’t know if I’d be doing anyone any favours. It’s harder than one thinks.”
What about Vancouver goaltending consultant Ian Clark? He’s in his seventh season working with the Canucks and seemingly nobody in the universe knows the position better than he does. If he can help Luongo stay on top of his game, what’s stopping him from doing it himself?
“Oh, I don’t know about him,” said Burrows. “He knows all about the techniques and how to make all the big saves, but he’s pretty small and I don’t think he would cover that much room in the net.”
If Roberto Luongo and Curtis Sanford are both injured in a game, who takes over in net?
Thankfully that’s a question that will remain unanswered.
View From Both Sides
3 - Goalies other than Roberto Luongo, Curtis Sanford and Cory Schneider currently in Vancouver's system (Morgan Clark, Julien Ellis, Lukas Mensator)
15 - Netminders who have appeared in at least one game for the Canucks since the 2000-01 season
47 - Club record for wins in a season by Roberto Luongo in 2006-07
56 - Different goaltenders have played for the Canucks since 1970
516 - Franchise record games played by Kirk McLean