Gavin McHale lived his NHL dream serving as the Capitals’ emergency goaltender. He just hoped they’d let him keep the jersey.
Less than two hours before puck drop against the Winnipeg Jets, the Washington Capitals faced a goaltending quandary. Braden Holtby, the team’s scheduled starting goaltender, would not be able to play due to an upper-body injury. Pheonix Copley was forced to tend the twine for the second straight night. The Caps top goaltending prospect Ilya Samsonov couldn’t be called up from Hershey because the Russian’s flight would not arrive in time, leaving the team without a backup.
The Stanley Cup champions turned to the Winnipeg Jets’ emergency goaltender pool and signed 31-year-old Gavin McHale, a six-foot, seven-inch University of Manitoba hockey coach, to be the team’s backup goalie. The jacked physical trainer, who played three seasons of junior hockey and posted a sub-.900 save percentage during his time in the WHL, spends his Saturdays playing on a beer-league team called Shake N Bake.
Plucked off the street, McHale selflessly skipped dinner and grinded through rush hour traffic to be an NHL hockey player for the evening.
“I got here as fast as I could, basically told everyone I knew and got here as fast as I could,” McHale said. “I was coming from the south end so I had to fight a bit of traffic, but I was weaving my way in and out.”
The Capitals, Alex Ovechkin in particular, didn’t take it easy on McHale during warmups.