A fourth year sociology major at the University of British Columbia is getting to live out a dream, after signing a one day contract to be the backup netminder for the Vancouver Canucks.
Matt Hewitt, the starting goalie for the UBC Thunderbirds hockey team, got the call after the Canucks” Ryan Miller picked up an injury that ruled him out of the Tuesday night tilt with the St. Louis Blues.
After getting a morning off classes on Tuesday, Hewitt says he slept in and woke up late to a flurry of messages and speculation in a group chat with UBC teammates after Miller”s injury was confirmed.
Hewitt says he had heard rumours about the Canucks turning to UBC to solve their last minute goalie emergency, but wasn”t sure until Sven Butchenson, UBC”s head coach, broke the news later in the day.
“My heart pretty much stopped right there and I can”t describe how excited I am,” he said about receiving the phone call.
His first call after receiving the news was to his dad, followed by friends.
Former Canucks goalie Alex Auld is the current goalie coach for the university team and Hewitt says the ex-NHLer has been crucial in preparing him for his possible cameo.
Hewitt, who played in the WHL against current Canuck Jake Virtanen, admits he”s unsure of what to expect and is focused on enjoying the moment.
“That’s the fun part about it. I don’t really know what to expect,” he said. “I”m just going to go in there and enjoy every minute of it and take it all in.”
Since the news broke, Hewitt has been swamped with messages from family and friends.
“To be honest, I can”t even tell you how many messages and how much support and love I”ve got from all my family and friends,” he said. “I”ve already had a bunch of buddies tell me they”re coming to the game just to support me.”
Emergency backups are nothing new in the NHL. Last year, the Florida Panthers enlisted goalie coach Robb Tallas – who hadn”t played professional hockey for 14 seasons – to be a backup after Al Montoya and Roberto Luongo suffered injuries.
Hewitt also isn”t the first UBC player to receive the call from the Canucks. In 2003, Chris Levesque was called up after Dan Cloutier was injured and nearly made an appearance in the game after goalie Johan Hedberg collided with a Pittsburgh Penguins player.
Jordan White, the university”s goalie in 2011, was enlisted as an emergency backup for a Canucks game but suited up for the visiting San Jose Sharks.
If Hewitt was to make an appearance in the game, he would be the first emergency backup since 1963 to play in a game.
After Tuesday”s game, Hewitt says he”s focusing on schoolwork and helping the Thunderbirds prepare for a game against the University of Alberta Golden Bears.