The man burst from the lobby with breaking news, interrupting the celebration and hollering like Paul Revere. It was Thursday night at Johnny’s IceHouse East in Chicago, a few minutes after the over-40 men’s league championship. As rink general manager Pete Johnson attempted to corral the winning team for pictures and a trophy presentation, the bombshells landed:
HEY, COME AND CHECK THIS OUT!
THEY’RE PUTTING FOSTER IN!
FOZZIE’S GETTING CALLED IN!
The players rushed into the lobby, many still wearing full equipment and skates. If true, this was too good to miss. They clamored for views of the television, which was showing the third period of the Blackhawks-Jets game at United Center, located less than a mile away. The man wasn’t joking. There on the screen, sporting a No. 90 jersey below his familiar steel gray mask, was 36-year-old Scott Foster: adult league teammate, professional accountant and now, thanks to an absurd confluence of fluky circumstances, NHL goalie for the Chicago Blackhawks.
“Pretty crazy, huh?” Johnson says. “Unreal.”
Except it actually happened. Foster actually played 14:01, actually stopped seven shots, actually secured a 6–2 victory. He actually heard the crowd chant his name, over and over, and then actually received first-star honors and a shimmering wrestling belt that the Blackhawks award in-house. Later he conducted an actually hilarious postgame interview, in which Foster was asked about Chicago coach Joel Quenneville laughing upon his entrance. He paused for a moment and nodded. “I think I would too.”
To the boys watching back at Johnny’s, this was all a riot. They know Foster as a mild-mannered, stay-at-home netminder, a father of two young daughters who always hits the ice before anyone else to warm up. They know that he graduated in 2006 from Western Michigan University, where he played varsity hockey for four years but only started for two, and that now he works at Golub Capital, mostly in corporate accounting. They did not know that he used to stuff hockey trading cards in his skates for good luck, though they are not surprised; he is a goalie, after all.
“He’s a good s---,” says Mark Olson, one of Foster’s teammates with an Elite League outfit called 200x85. “Very humble, very respectful. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy. I think that’s half the reason the place was up for grabs.”
Indeed, the party funneled into the rink bar as the third period progressed, roars and toasts of Labatt accompanying each shot that Foster saved. A gimme against Tyler Myers, less than a minute after replacing injured starter Collin Delia. A wrister from Patrik Laine, a backhander from Andrew Copp, a Dustin Byfuglien sizzler. At one point, Johnson sent a text to TV play-by-play announcer and friend Pat Foley, which earned a Johnny’s shoutout on live air. “I’m pretty sure they might’ve ran out of alcohol last night,” Olson says. “Normally we don’t like spilling beer. In this case, it was damn well worth it.”
Only in hockey. “I’ve been hearing that a lot,” Johnson says, because where else can an equipment manager like Jorge Alves (Carolina, Dec. 2016) or a barhopping journeyman like Alfie Moore (Chicago, Apr. 1938) actually live out a childhood fantasy? Most emergency goalies remain anonymous, munching popcorn in the press box and leaving with nothing but a free ticket, which is what Foster had done during his previous dozen or so trips to United Center … until he received word that Anton Forsberg had been hurt during warmups and the Blackhawks needed Foster to dress … until he received word that Delia went down and he needed to play.
“You couldn’t have written up a higher level of spontaneous hockey fun than was there last night,” says Joe Claffy, who had a 6 a.m. flight Friday morning but stayed at Johnny’s past 1 a.m. anyway, forgetting all about the over-40 title that his Chicago Sharks had won. “Damn the trophy, damn the celebration. It was definitely not the most important thing to anybody on my team. Not even close.”
In addition to 200x85, Foster also backstops Wight and Co, an A League team sponsored by a local construction company. At the same time that Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen was dispatched to fetch Foster for active duty, the Wight and Co players were preparing for their regular season finale. And since their starting goalie wasn’t around, they too needed to find an emergency goalie. “I don’t think he got to sign in properly,” Johnson says, “so Scott was clocked in as playing at 9:50 p.m. last night, while he was geared up for the Hawks.”
One day later, Foster is keeping a low profile. Any further interview requests were declined through Blackhawks PR. A spokeswoman for Golub Capital similarly parried attempts to reach his colleagues at the accounting firm, though a receptionist did observe that her phones had been ringing more often than usual this morning. One assumes that Foster followed the same schedule that he relayed to reporters in the locker room, upon getting asked whether he was nervous to make his NHL debut, “Tomorrow, I’m going to wake up and I’m going to button up my shirt and I’m going to go back to my day job. What pressure is there for me?”
His hockey buddies, however, are happy to talk. Many of them are former college players, or better; Sebastien Geoffrion, grandson of “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, was called up to the ECHL last season, while former NHL center Andy Hilbert is scheduled to face Foster this weekend over a best-of-three series in the Elite League semifinals. But none of them have ever seen anything quite like this. Late Thursday night, Olson fired off an email: Hey, unbelievable, Mr. Foster. Remember, when they ask for the movie rights, don’t forget about us.
“I want him to enjoy it,” Olson says. “Lord knows we all did.”