Saturday, 3 December 2016

Welcome To The Big Leagues, Kid

If had been listening in to UMFM's broadcast of Bisons women's hockey today, you would have heard TJ and I run down the NHL scores. In looking for some information, I mentioned on the air that Eric Semborski had been signed to an amateur tryout contract by the Chicago Blackhawks with Corey Crawford taking ill. That's Eric in the photo above as he took warmup tonight with the Blackhawks, and it was odd seeing someone not named Crawford wearing #50 in the Blackhawks' net. So who is Eric Semborski? Where did the Blackhawks find this kid on short notice? Did he play in tonight's game? All of the answers are coming up.

Crawford was expected to be starting this evening against the Flyers. Instead he fell ill on Saturday morning and required an emergency appendectomy. Needless to say, the Blackhawks were down a man for the evening as Crawford recovered. But why ask Semborksi? Why not get someone with some NHL experience from within the franchise?

There was a question why the Blackhawks simply didn't turn to their goaltending coach in former Blackhawk Jimmy Waite. Due to NHL rules, Waite's salary for the day would have counted against the cap had he been signed as he's a former professional hockey player, and the Blackhawks have zero cap room as it is. Waite probably would have suited up, but the Blackhawks had to go elsewhere for a solution because of Waite's professional status as a netminder.

The Blackhawks asked the Flyers for some help in solving their goaltending conundrum, and the result was that the Flyers located Semborski working at the Flyers' practice facility. The phone rang, and the voice on the other end of the line told Semborski to head home and get his goaltending equipment. Semborski, in defence of his emergency call-up, tended nets for a club team at Temple University, so he has some experience. The call from Blackawks' senior director of team services Tony Ommen came just two hours before the NHL game was scheduled to start.

According to the report filed by Chicago Tribune reporter Chris Hine, the Blackhawks welcomed the new kid immediately by making him part of the team, for better or worse.
The Hawks embraced the chance to razz their new teammate. They called him out for showing up late and for not wearing a suit to the game. They put his number on the board and told him he had to contribute $200 to the team's holiday party.

"I told them you better take credit, because that's all I have," Semborski said.

Soon after arriving, it was time for warmups. Semborski came out in a No. 50 jersey that had Crawford's name removed and his name on it. Semborski looked a little slow as pucks zoomed by him during his time in net as he was comprehending what was happening.

"That was the best 20 minutes of my life skating with them," Semborski said. "It was pretty cool. ... I was a bit rusty. No matter how much I play I'm not going to be ready for them. It was fast. I couldn't even catch my breath because I was trying to take it all in."

Late in the game, the Hawks were trailing 3-1 and had pulled starter Scott Darling for an extra attacker. If the Flyers had scored an empty netter, Semborski said the Hawks were going to put him in the game. But it never came to be.
The catch in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Semborski is that he gets paid nothing for his two hours of fame. The amateur tryout contract allows the Blackhawks to fill the position in an emergency without committing any cap space towards the contract. I'm not sure you'll ever hear Semborski complain about not getting paid, though. It seems the experience of being an NHL netminder for one game might be worth its weight in gold for the life-long Flyers fan. And new Chicago Blackhawks fan.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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