Surjan Singh (SS) is a mechanical engineer who most recently worked at Virgin Galactic and is now on sabbatical. He writes at An Engineering Self-Study and previously published the excellent Stiffness Edition and Engineering Safety Edition. Recently over at his newsletter, he’s been working hard to build a new kind of facemask for hockey goalies. You should subscribe and follow along with the journey. - Noah (NRB)
Surjan here. Last week, Tom Hodges attended a hockey game in Dallas after a long day selling life insurance. Halfway through a hotdog, he got a call, walked out to his car to grab his gear, and, not long after, made his debut as a goalie in the National Hockey League. Tom is an EBUG, or emergency backup goalie—a product of one of the most unique rules in all of professional sports.
Why is this interesting?
On an NHL team, there are two goalies: a starter and a backup. The backup usually sits on the bench, looking bored, until he’s called into action due to injury or poor performance. But what if both the starter and the backup get injured? You’d think one of the skaters could put on the gear and hop in the net, but goaltending in hockey is highly specialized and the risk for injury is too high. Hence the EBUG: a local non-professional goalie who stays ready to sub in for either team in exchange for a free ticket. It’s a very rare occurrence—only five EBUGs have ever appeared in an NHL game—but when it happens, it’s always a fantastic story. A regular guy getting to live his dream for a night.
Tom, for instance, thought his NHL dreams were over at the age of 12 when he lost most of the sight in his left eye after taking a puck off his head in practice. But he kept playing for the love of the game and ended up with, as he said, an “experience of a lifetime.” And just look at the reaction of his teammates for the night, even after a loss.
So in 2022, we have the insurance salesman. In 2018, the accountant Scott Foster stopped all seven shots he faced to preserve a win for the Chicago Blackhawks. In 2020, the Zamboni driver David Ayres famously recorded the first-ever win for an EBUG as he denied his hometown Maple Leafs for half a game.
Ayres also lost long-suffering Leafs fans the last of their sanity.