Bisons goalie coach gets called up – way up, to the NHL

Gavin McHale has a tale to tell his grandkids – one they’ll surely repeat to their grandkids.

The goalie coach with the University of Manitoba women’s team answered the SOS call from the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night to be their emergency backup in Winnipeg against the Jets.

McHale, 31, signed an amateur tryout contract and wore Capitals colours, backing up Pheonix Copley who got his second start in as many nights after stopping 26 shots in Washington’s 5-2 victory over the host Minnesota Wild.

McHale took the warm-up and even faced a few shots, the first coming off the stick of Washington sniper Alex Ovechkin. The ‘Great 8’ scored high. Then Nicklas Backstom beat McHale low before the lanky fill-in turned aside a deke by T.J, Oshie, one of a number of stops he likely won’t soon forget.

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Gavin McHale has a tale to tell his grandkids – one they’ll surely repeat to their grandkids.

The goalie coach with the University of Manitoba women’s team answered the SOS call from the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night to be their emergency backup in Winnipeg against the Jets.

McHale, 31, signed an amateur tryout contract and wore Capitals colours, backing up Pheonix Copley who got his second start in as many nights after stopping 26 shots in Washington’s 5-2 victory over the host Minnesota Wild.

McHale took the warm-up and even faced a few shots, the first coming off the stick of Washington sniper Alex Ovechkin. The ‘Great 8’ scored high. Then Nicklas Backstom beat McHale low before the lanky fill-in turned aside a deke by T.J, Oshie, one of a number of stops he likely won’t soon forget.

Caps’ top goalie Braden Holtby was a late scratch because of an upper-body injury, although the details weren’t disclosed. It happened too late in the day for Washington to call up a goalie within its organization.

McHale is part of a crew of recreational goaltenders who attend Winnipeg’s home games in case of emergencies for either squad.

He hasn’t played high-level hockey since the 2008-09 season when he suited up for two games with the Bisons men’s squad. Before that, he played two seasons in the Western Hockey League, split between Seattle and Lethbridge, as well as short stints in the Alberta and Manitoba junior leagues.

It’s the second time the 6-7, 200-pound former Portage Terrier has had his name on an NHL game sheet. McHale was the emergency backup Feb. 16 for the Colorado Avalanche in the third period of a 6-2 defeat last season to the host Jets when starter Jonathan Bernier got hurt and Semyon Varlamov entered the game to start the third period.

But that night, McHale never left the Avalanche dressing room.

Last year, the Jets faced emergency goalie Scott Foster, a Chicago accountant, at United Center against the host Blackhawks. He stopped all seven Winnipeg shots he faced in 14 minutes of work after in third-period emergency duty in a 6-2 win for the hosts.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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