Ice Rink Employee Spends One Day As An NHL Player

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A funny thing happened to New Jersey ice rink employee and youth hockey coach Eric Semborski on Saturday. He signed a contract with the Chicago Blackhawks and was Chicago’s backup goalie during an actual NHL game.

Semborski played club hockey at Temple University, and he now plays recreationally and coaches youth hockey in Voorhees, New Jersey. But suiting up for an actual NHL team was not on his radar.

While in Philadelphia to play a game Saturday against the Flyers, Chicago’s backup goalie needed an emergency appendectomy. With their minor league affiliate playing in Michigan, the Blackhawks couldn’t get another backup to Philadelphia in time for the 1 p.m. game.

Instead, they were forced to sign a player with no previous NHL experience because of issues with their salary cap. It was that scenario that gave Semborski a day he’ll never forget.

Semborski was coaching a youth team in Voorhees Saturday morning when a representative from the Flyers started asking him about his experience playing hockey.

“I didn’t even know what he was getting at, and then I asked ‘Why are you asking me this?'” Semborski explains. “Then he said, ‘Oh, Chicago needs a goalie,’ and I just lost it. So he said ‘Go home, get your stuff, and if they’re going to use you, they’ll call you.’ I left right away and 10 minutes later I got a call.”

The Flyers gave the Blackhawks a list of goalies in the area who could help, but who recommended Semborski to them is unclear. “Whoever did, thank you because it was awesome,” Semborski said.

By 12:30 that afternoon, Semborski was in the visiting locker room at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. He got a jersey with his name on it and warmed up with the Blackhawks before the game.

“It was fast and I couldn’t even catch my breath because I was just trying to take it all in,” Semborski said about being on the ice with the team before the game.

Semborski won’t get paid for his time as a backup goalie, as he signed an amateur contract, and he didn’t get in the game, but the memories of that experience are enough for him.

The Blackhawks promised to send him a jersey. Semborski also left with a hat and a few autographed pucks. “Really, I’m happy with a hat and the memories,” he said. “This is so cool.”