On Thursday night in the middle of a National Hockey League game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Winnipeg Jets, an unfamiliar figure in a No. 90 Blackhawks jersey stepped onto the ice at the United Center.
Foster has never played in the NHL.
Less than 15 minutes after he took the ice, the Blackhawks came away with a 6-2 victory, and Foster emerged a hockey hero, delivering a performance that left everyone who watched it in awe.
Scott Foster is officially somehow the most improbable, unlikely story in Chicago sports in March, knocking off Loyola's run to the Final Four. An accountant who plays in a beer league coming in and playing goalie and shutting down an actual NHL team for more than half a period.— Matt Lindner (@mattlindner) March 30, 2018
How did the father of two and amateur player end up trending on Twitter and stealing the spotlight from fellow Blackhawk Brent Seabrook, who played his 1,000th-regular-season game that same night?
Foster is one of a small group of “emergency backup” goaltenders who are kept on hand, usually in the press box or the stands, in the highly unlikely event both regular goalies on the roster are hurt or otherwise unavailable.
“Among hockey’s great quirks,” as Hockey News explained, “is that it’s the only pro sport with the potential for someone not on the roster to come out of the stands and actually play in the game.” But, “it takes a very rare set of circumstances to open that door.”
Hours before the game, goaltender Anton Forsberg injured himself during a morning practice, according to the Chicago Tribune. Down to one goalie, rookie Collin Delia, the Blackhawks signed Foster as an emergency backup. Delia got hurt. Foster was told to put on his helmet.
Here’s a sampler of the play-by-play that followed from the Blackhawks Twitter account:
Wearing No. 90 for the Chicago #Blackhawks: Scott Foster pic.twitter.com/2u3uCFXGhO— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) March 30, 2018
AND A SAVE BY FOSTER!— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) March 30, 2018
FOS-TER! FOS-TER! Now chanted in the @UnitedCenter! You can't make this stuff up! #CHIvsWPG
Foster absorbs the shot and holds on with 1:25 remaining to a ROAR of applause in the @UnitedCenter. #CHIvsWPG— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) March 30, 2018
HORN! Emergency goaltender Scott Foster, everyone! #HAWKSWIN— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) March 30, 2018
This isn’t the first time Foster has been tapped for the emergency backup role. In a postgame interview, he said he had been designated as the emergency goalie for 12 or 15 games this season, but his usual duties involved sitting in the press box and taking advantage of the free food.
So imagine his surprise when he learned that Delia — in the midst of his own NHL debut — had suffered an injury in the third period, and he was needed.
“The initial shock happened when I had to dress, and then, I think, you just kind of blackout after that,” Foster said.
The cameras trained on him as he made his way past a bemused Joel Quenneville, the Blackhawks’ coach, and other players. Despite wearing his hockey helmet, his eyes seemed to show bewilderment.
When asked if he received any advice before his big moment, Foster said, “I don’t think I heard anything other than ‘Put your helmet on.’ ”
It turns out no advice was needed.
Foster was an impenetrable wall, stopping all seven of the shots he faced, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
In the 14 minutes and one second that Foster played, the Internet went wild.
His spotless performance stunned fans, with Sun-Times reporter Satchel Price tweeting an all-caps reminder that Foster had “NEVER PLAYED PRO HOCKEY.”
His own recreational league chimed in, tweeting their support for the burgeoning star.
Scott Foster, Johnny’s Elite league goalie, called into the game for the @NHLBlackhawks. Making big saves! Go Scotty! pic.twitter.com/PWEJ5IwYDG— Johnny's IceHouse (@johnnysicehouse) March 30, 2018
His feat even earned him the team belt, which is awarded to the player of the game, according to WCVB.
What a night.— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) March 30, 2018
Emergency backup goalie Scott Foster gets the belt for his surprise performance. #FosterOfThePeople https://t.co/g1dHZKPanr
“This is something that no one can ever take away from me,” Foster said. “It’s something that I can go home and tell my kids.”
In an instant, Foster became an icon for adult recreational hockey players who imagine themselves playing in the NHL.
On Twitter, a user said Foster “is why we all keep plugging away in beer leagues and pick up games.”
His story was even compared to other inspirational sports moments, like Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger taking the field with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in 1975.
This Scott Foster story is incredible, once-in-a-lifetime stuff, like the movie "Rudy." You've never played pro hockey. You're 36. Yet the stars aligned in spectacular fashion Thursday night. This is generational storytime stuff you can't make up. This happened, folks. It's nuts!— Tim Froehlig (@TFroehlig) March 30, 2018
Despite his newfound fame, Foster said he still has to go back to his day job, where he will trade his Blackhawks jersey for a button-down shirt.
“Who would have thought?” he said to reporters after the game. “You just keep grinding away in men’s league, and eventually you get your shot.”
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