The emergency backup goalie — affectionately known as EBUG — is one of the rarest occurrences in hockey. Per league rules, every home team needs to have someone on standby to play in goal for either team should their usual goalies be injured or unavailable.
When activated, EBUGs usually sign either an amateur or professional tryout contract. While having an EBUG suit up and sitting on the bench happens more regularly, only four had ever logged any ice time and accomplished something every young hockey player in the world dreams of.
The first was Carolina Hurricanes equipment manager Jorge Alves who suited up for the Canes in 2016-2017, followed by accountant Scott Foster who made seven saves on seven shots for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2017-2018. Most famously, David Ayres helped the Hurricanes beat his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 in the 2019-2020 season. Thomas Hodges also filled in in the Anaheim Ducks net in for less than a minute of play in April 2022, allowing one goal on three shots.
However, on Sunday night, a fifth player joined these legendary ranks. With the Edmonton Oilers comfortably ahead 7-3 and 2:26 left in the game, head coach Jay Woodcroft replaced Jack Campbell with EBUG and University of Alberta goalie Matt Berlin, fulfilling his childhood dream and becoming the fifth emergency netminder to play minutes in an NHL game.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 29, 2023
“I thought they were kidding, to be honest,” said Berlin after the game. “With about five or six minutes left they go ‘you’re going in with two minutes left’ […] and I said ‘OK, I guess we’re doing this.’”
Berlin told Sportsnet's Scott Oake that the team reached out to him in the morning saying they needed an EBUG for the game against Chicago. In the afternoon, when it was determined that Oilers backup Stuart Skinner would not be able to suit up, Berlin was told to he'd be backing up Jack Campbell.
"I was in scramble mode, I had to sign a contract and do all this stuff before I go," Berlin said. "It was a bit of a whirlwind but it was so exciting, I couldn't believe it."
Berlin made one save on Blackhawks defenceman Caleb Jones from a point shot which prompted an explosive cheer from the crowd.
Woodcroft told reporters after the game that it was the players' idea to give Berlin some time between the pipes.
"First of all, it came from the players," he said. "We talked about it on the bench, we wanted to make sure we did it in a respectful way, but we just wanted to give somebody an opportunity that they'll remember for the rest of their lives. I was proud of our team that they came to that decision."
Goodnight, Oil Country pic.twitter.com/bk0T4fpmzJ
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) January 29, 2023
Berlin has played five games this season for the number five-ranked University of Alberta Golden Bears, posting a 2.57 goals against average and a .892 save percentage, but nobody can take away his perfect record in the NHL.
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