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NHL Heritage Classic

Emergency goalie thrilled to practice with Jets idols

Murray Cobb takes ice with former Winnipeg players leading up to Heritage Classic Alumni Game

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

WINNIPEG -- Goaltending has provided some great memories for Murray Cobb, but it will be hard to beat the experience it gave him Friday.

Cobb, 39, was pressed into service for the Winnipeg Jets alumni during practice at MTS Centre as they prepared for the 2016 Rogers NHL Heritage Classic Alumni Game (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, NHL.com), to be played outdoors at Investors Group Field on Saturday. Bob Essensa and Daniel Berthiaume will be the goalies for the former Jets in the game against the Edmonton Oilers alumni, but Essensa, the goalie coach for the Boston Bruins, could not get to Winnipeg in time for the morning practice.

Enter Cobb, who plays in a men's league each week at MTS Iceplex, the Jets practice facility. Cobb played for McGill University from 1999 to 2003 and spent several seasons playing pro hockey in Serbia before returning to the Winnipeg area.

"Found out late last night and figured that is an assignment I can take," Cobb said after practice, sitting in the dressing room. "I think it's better to just roll in and have fun with it."

Have fun he did.

Cobb didn't go all out, but he did try to present a challenge for players he grew up idolizing.

"What made it more exciting and nerve-wracking is that these were the guys you looked up to and watched as a kid," he said. "You were Teemu Selanne on PlayStation. I still have the Daniel Berthiaume 'Pokey and the Bandit' poster from as a kid.

"It was different than just trying to survive a skate. A once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Cobb has been the director of the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy for the past five years. He has been an emergency practice goalie for the Jets, including last month when Ondrej Pavelec was playing for Team Czech Republic in the World Cup of Hockey 2016. He also has served in a similar role for Manitoba of the American Hockey League.

None of it prepared him fully for Friday.

"I got great advice: Stand there and don't start flopping around," he said with a laugh. "They are supposed to score upstairs. Just be stable and it works out well."

Video: Check out a time lapse at Investors Group Field

That's exactly what Cobb did. He didn't drop into the butterfly stance or flop into a double-stack pad save. He didn't try to get the better of the players for his mental scrapbook. He stood up and let the shooters, including Selanne and Dale Hawerchuk, two of the biggest names in Jets history, hit him or score into the corners.

"A few pucks from Selanne and Hawerchuk hit [me], but, of course, a few got by as well," Cobb said. "I can tell my kids that at least one puck from each of them hit me in the chest."

While being on the ice with some of his childhood idols was cool, being in the dressing room with them before and after practice was the best part.

As Cobb packed his equipment, Berthiaume's locker was across the room. Thomas Steen's was across the aisle. Hawerchuk was another three stalls to the left and Selanne was in the far corner.

"I was just [a] straight-up wallflower today, just taking it all in," he said. "It's fun to see those guys that you grew up watching in this setting. You can just tell how tight they are. I am sure some of the guys haven't seen each other for 20 years. But that's the amazing thing about hockey, those bonds never break. I just sat back smiled and let these guys do their thing."

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