Photo Credit Zach Hill/Philadelphia Flyers
Recently promoted to the Hockey Director position at Flyers Skate Zone in Northeast Philly, Eric Semborski spent his morning on April 1 coaching our lesson programs. The rest of his day was not an April Fool’s joke, but it’s still hard to believe.
Having served as emergency backup goaltender for the Chicago Blackhawks this past December (see story about that day here), he would have never guessed that he would get another opportunity to experience that ever again, nevertheless in the same NHL season. Then Eric received a call at 5 PM.
“I got a call from the Flyers that Steve Mason was ill and that they were not sure Antonthy Stolarz would make it to the Center in time, so they asked me to come down just in case,” said Eric Semborski recalling his evening. Stolarz got to the Wells Fargo Center just in time for puck drop, but the team asked Eric to go up to the press box just in case something happens.
Minutes later, something happened. Starting goaltender Michael Neuvirth collapsed on the ice in the first period. “A frightening moment, I hoped he was okay,” recalled Eric. Neuvirth was taken to the hospital for observation (he was released and was diagnosed with a sinus infection), which meant Eric was summoned downstairs to get dressed. He now was the emergency backup goalie for the Flyers, the team he rooted for as a kid.
That alone was a dream for Eric, but with 24.5 seconds left in the third period, the dream hit a new reality. Coach Dave Hasktol told him to get in the game and replace Stolarz. Soon 20,000 people in the Wells Fargo Center were cheering for him as he skated towards the net. Eric described the feeling, “That was a pretty special moment. I tried to keep focused on the fact I was about to get in net, but it still struck me that I was about to face all these NHL players that I follow as a fan.”
However, the moment was short lived. Because Eric was the emergency goaltender, by NHL rules he was not allowed to enter the game unless Stolarz was also injured. He then skated back to the bench as Stolarz finished the game and the Flyers went on to win 3-0 against the New Jersey Devils.
“It was exciting to think that I got about as close as you can get to playing in a NHL game now twice,” Eric reflected on afterwards, “Unfortunately it didn’t work out, but I’m extremely lucky just to be this close.”
After the game, he stayed in the locker room, took questions from the media, and had dinner with the team before heading home. The next day, he was back at Skate Zone working in his usual duties as Hockey Director. However, Eric’s hockey season has been anything but usual, to say the least.
Below are some clips and articles about Eric’s Flyers experience:
CSN Philly (includes video of game and reporters afterwards)- http://www.csnphilly.com/philadelphia-flyers/flyers-notes-eric-semborski-appreciates-dave-hakstols-attempt-play-him-nhl-game
Interview with WIP Morning Show (includes audio)- http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2017/04/03/flyers-goalie-eric-semborski/
Interview with Yahoo Sports- http://sports.yahoo.com/news/flyers-emergency-backup-lives-nhl-dream-again-video-042344862.html
Interview with Temple News- http://temple-news.com/sports/semborski-gets-second-opportunity-nhl-backup/