The NHL requires home teams to have two non-NHL goalies available at every game in case either team runs out of goaltenders. If that sounds too weird to be true, well, let's recall the story of Scott Foster, a Chicago accountant and regular beer leaguer who had 14 minutes' and seven saves' worth of viral fame earlier this year for the Chicago Blackhawks ... in the middle of tax season.
What are the odds?
The Blackhawks use a rotating cast of emergency goaltenders. On March 29, Foster was on duty. Usually he'll arrive at the arena, head right to the press box, eat a free meal and then head home. On this night, Foster was driving from work to the United Center when he got urgent news. The Blackhawks' regular goaltender, Corey Crawford, had been out since December, and his replacement, Anton Forsberg, got hurt in warm-ups. Minor leaguer Collin Delia was called up earlier in the day to back up Forsberg, and now he was going to start. That means Foster was No. 2 in line, just in case.
Michael Hendrie, Foster's beer league teammate: There were 13 days per year where he was going to show up in his suit and eat hot dogs and nachos in a box and then go home, with minimal probability that he's ever going to get in.
Eddie Olczyk, Blackhawks broadcaster: It was already a big night. Brent Seabrook was playing in his 1,000th game, so there was a long ceremony beforehand. [Dylan] Sikura was making his NHL debut. Anton Forsberg is a late scratch. For what should have been just another late-season game against the Winnipeg Jets, there was a lot going on.
Collin Delia, Blackhawks backup goalie that night: I was just called up that day. As I started to put my gear on, Jimmy Waite, the goaltending coach, came up and said, "So Fors got hurt, so you're playing tonight." Everyone looked up at me bewildered.
Troy Parchman, equipment manager: We started running around and realized we had to make a name plate for the jersey. I told Frank Tomaselli, the parking guy, that as soon as this guy gets here, get his ass down to the dressing room. He doesn't show up until five to 7. Warm-up was at 7. So he has to sign his contract and doesn't get a chance to warm up.
D.J. Kogut, equipment assistant: He had the best seat in the house: He sat with Corey Crawford and Jonathan Toews on the couch in the lounge to watch the game. He was oddly calm. I don't know if it was nerves or what.
Erik Gustafsson, Blackhawks defenseman: Apparently between periods, he was in the locker room.
Nick Schmaltz, Blackhawks forward: Was he in the locker room? I don't even know if I remember seeing him. He must have just blended in.
No time to stretch
Through two periods, the Blackhawks built a 5-2 lead, but Delia was being peppered by shots from the Winnipeg Jets (who, at this point in the season, were fighting with the Nashville Predators for the league's best record). When the third period began, the Jets applied heavy pressure on Delia. The 23-year-old -- who had never played in an NHL game before -- started to cramp up.
Delia: The second period, I was getting absolutely bombarded -- not necessarily with shots, but they had the puck in our zone, and those are hard minutes. Eventually, my body caught up to me. When I went down, my whole leg went out under me. It felt like I was electrocuted. I went right to the trainer's room. I got one IV in the left arm. They were trying to see if I could go back and finish the game. They said, "Let's see how fast we can push fluid through you." So they put an IV in the right arm, too.
Parchman: When Delia started cramping up, I radioed to Jimmy to have the emergency guy start stretching. I mean, he probably had just come from work. He'll need to get loose. But then it happened so fast. Soon, I was just telling Jimmy: Go get the emergency guy. He didn't even have time to stretch.
Jimmy Heintzelman, another equipment assistant: I had to actually tell him twice. He was kind of in shock. He didn't really say anything, just sat there. So I say it again, slowly: "He's ... coming ... off ... you're ... going ... in."
Hendrie: At Johnny's, which is right down the street, one guy comes to the locker room and declares "FOZZIE'S GOIN' IN!" And everyone leaps up and says 'holy s---!' and we come running out to the lobby.
Gustafsson: I was a little nervous. Yeah, we had a 6-2 lead and 14 minutes left, but you could blow that if someone doesn't know what they're doing.
Cool, calm and collected
The Blackhawks led 6-2 by the time Foster entered, with 14:01 remaining in the third. His first shot came one minute in -- a wrister by Tyler Myers. About three minutes later, Patrik Laine -- who finished second to Alex Ovechkin this season with 44 goals -- unleashed a wrister. Another save. Foster then handled a backhanded shot by Andrew Copp, and a sizzling snap shot from one of the league's most feared sticks, Dustin Byfuglien. Save, and another save. The legend began to grow.
Schmaltz: Patrik Laine was ripping shots at his head, [Dustin] Byfuglien hit him in the head, I think. He kind of looked like a Braden Holtby out there. Calm, cool, gathering pucks -- nothing seemed to faze him.
Brent Seabrook, Blackhawks defenseman: On the ice, he was pretty quiet, actually. As players, we were trying to do everything to help -- block shots, get in lanes. I don't know if I heard him say a word.
Gustafsson: He was kind of old-school, scooting back and forth. Definitely not a style you see very often.
Hendrie: He plays twice a week. He takes it seriously. He kept his game at a Division I level. The [Paul] Stastny save was legit. Some of the other saves were more fluky, shots that just sort of hit him. But he didn't give up rebounds on NHL slap shots from the blue line. That takes skill. The ability to corral a rebound like that shows he has that skill set.
Olczyk: We didn't know much about the guy other than that he was an accountant and played at Western Michigan. My partner, Pat Foley, was getting texts from guys who played with him in beer league, and he was just reading that info on air.
In the spotlight
Foster ended up saving all seven shots he faced over 14 minutes to preserve a 6-2 win for the Blackhawks. By the end of the game, the 21,000-plus fans at the United Center began chanting his name. Foster, who worked a full 9-to-5 day beforehand, was named the No. 1 star of the night.
Adam Rogowin, vice president, communications: With 14 minutes left, we chatted in our department: This guy is going to have to do media. He got picked as the No. 1 star, and normally the first star does the on-ice interview. Does he do the interview? We don't want to throw a guy out there who hasn't done it before. But the crowd was chanting his name. He had to do it. When he got to the locker room, I already knew this thing was taking a life of his own. In men's league, you just take your stuff off and go home. I asked him if he was comfortable talking in front of our media, and he said yes.
Kogut: It was cool to see the crowd to react to it, but then with two minutes left, I was like, holy cow, they're going to want to interview this guy. In the main locker room, everyone has a nameplate above his stall. He obviously didn't have one. It takes a day to get them. I ran up with about two minutes left, I used Photoshop, and I printed a paper one.
Gustafsson: I loved his answers when he was interviewed. He had a great sense of humor and was so calm. He was in the locker room after the game, but we were only able to talk to him for like a second. He looked kind of chill. It was like, "I played a game in the NHL and won -- no big deal."
Foster: You know, it's funny, you'd think there'd be a lot of pressure, but really, tomorrow I'm going to wake up, I'm going to button up my shirt, and I'm going to go back to my day job. So what pressure is there for me?
Hendrie: Everyone had jokes. "Boys, we can still make it! This is proof! We still have a chance! Johnny's is a gateway to the Hawks!"
Seabrook: After the game, [Patrick] Sharp said it best: My entire career has been overshadowed. So it's fitting that on the celebration for my 1,000th game, some accountant named Scott Foster stole the show.
Olczyk: I've been around hockey a long time. That was one of the more unpredictable and exciting nights I can remember.
Back to reality
Foster has declined several interview requests with ESPN over the past two months. Via a Blackhawks spokesperson, Foster says he wants to return to his normal life and "doesn't want to make it a bigger deal than it was." The Blackhawks fielded dozens of requests, from talk shows to national radio shows to TV stations in Turkey. Foster has said no to everything. He attended the NHL Awards in Las Vegas to present the Vezina Award, but did not speak to any media while on site.
Parchman: After the game, we had to scramble to pack everybody up because we had a flight that night. So he didn't really get to celebrate with anyone.
Schmaltz: That was one of the coolest things to ever happen to me as a hockey player. We all patted him on the back after the game, but I don't know if anyone gave him a proper goodbye.
Seabrook: We gave him the puck, I think I shook his hand, and that was it. We had a two-and-a-half-hour flight to Denver to get on. Maybe if we were just going to St. Louis or Minnesota we could have stuck around and soaked it in with him a little. But we had to get out of there.
Hendrie: He should have come over to the bar afterward, but he didn't!
Parchman: We're going to reach out to him this summer. Jimmy made him a proper name plate, like one the rest of the guys have, so we want to give him that. I also think he was using sticks from college, like 12 years ago. I hadn't seen a wood stick like that in forever. So we're going to reach out to see if he wants new ones.
Rogowin: After the team left, I helped him get the equipment to the car. He had two car seats in there, so I didn't know where to put his pads. I told him about all of the media requests that were already coming in. He said, "Hear me out: I don't want to make a bigger deal of this. Cool moment, but what I want is to get back to my normal self. Work and family is very important to me." So he's declined everything. I give him credit. He's been really consistent.
Delia: He reached out to me a few days later, after the dust had settled. The text said: "Collin, I didn't get a chance to properly congratulate you on your first NHL start. It's very special. I'll be one of the people cheering the loudest the rest of the way." I sent him a text back. He actually never responded.