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