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A Wild NHL Debut for 51-year-old Minnesota Beer League Goalie

A Wild NHL Debut for 51-year-old Minnesota Beer League Goalie

The Minnesota Wild signed 51-year-old Pal Deutsch to an amateur contract to fill in for Niklas Backstrom.

It’s the dream of every beer league goaltender and an outside possibility for every EBUG (Emergency Back-Up Goaltender), and it came true for Minnesota native Paul Deutsch Wednesday when the Wild signed him to an amateur contract.

Deutsch, a 51-year-old recreational league stopper, had served as an emergency fill-in for Minnesota practices in the past thanks to a friendship with former Wild assistant coach Mike Ramsey. But with Niklas Backstrom forced to miss Wednesday’s game against Nashville for late developing personal reasons, and American Hockey League call up Matt Hackett a question mark to make it to the rink on time thanks to a late flight and holiday traffic, the Wild needed to get Deutsche under contract.

So Deutsch, who didn’t start playing goal until he was 37, skipped his weekly rec league game, signed an amateur agreement, and took the ice for warm ups as the emergency backup to Josh Harding wearing an old pair of Manny Fernandez’s (likely illegally sized) pads.

“Pretty nervous and I just want to make sure I don’t do anything stupid,” Deutsch told reporters before Hackett arrived just in time to replace him on the bench for the start of the game. “Stay out of their way and do what I’m supposed to do, give Harding a break when he needs one and let the guys fire away. It’s very nervous. Practice is one thing. I have to tell you the game faces are on. I don’t see that very often with these guys. At practice it’s calm, laughing and ha-has. Game day is different.”

Deutsch, whose last competitive league game came in 1978 as a junior varsity defenceman for Minneapolis Roosevelt High School, started between the pipes because he was sick of showing up to find there wasn’t two.

“When you play senior men’s hockey and there is no goalie, there is no game,” he said. “I was tired of coming into the room and saying ‘Oh rats, there aren’t two goalies.’ Guys would literally go home. So I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to play.'”

He just never thought it would be in the National Hockey League:

About The Author

Kevin Woodley

Kevin Woodley is a rec-league target and former contributing editor of the Goalie News magazine. He has written about the Vancouver Canucks and NHL for The Associated Press, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News for the last decade, and covered the 2010 Olympics for The AP.

5 Comments

  1. Dan

    Very cool story. It seems like we hear a story like this every year, and it never gets old. As a 45 year old beer league goalie myself, to have an opportunity like that would be a dream come true.

  2. Durfee

    This guy really makes me want to try and re-learn netminding after I’m done with college.

  3. goalie dad

    That has to be the coolest story ever

  4. Bill Russell

    Having grown up on the Quebec border and played between pipes since very young and still playing at 59, I have played against guys that went on to play professionally. I have always dreamed of what Paul has experienced. Congrats Paul.