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Blackhawks scramble to find emergency backup goalie

Flyers practice rink employee Eric Semborski enjoys unforgettable day

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PHILADELPHIA -- Eric Semborski was working at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, on Saturday morning.

Two hours later he was sitting in the visitors locker room at Wells Fargo Center, getting dressed with the Chicago Blackhawks, his teammates for a day.

Semborski signed an amateur tryout contract with the Blackhawks on Saturday after Corey Crawford needed an appendectomy, leaving Chicago without a goaltender to back up Scott Darling.

With Rockford, its American Hockey League affiliate, preparing for a game in Grand Rapids, Michigan, there was no way to get a goaltender to Philadelphia for a 1 p.m. start. Chicago also had to pick a goaltender with no professional experience because of their NHL salary-cap situation.

Semborski played on the club hockey team at Temple University and is a coach and instructor for the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation. He said he plays recreationally but his last competitive game was last December.

"I was at the rink in Voorhees coaching … and I walked off the ice and started talking to someone with the Flyers who started asking me 'Where'd you play hockey?' and 'What's your playing history?'" Semborski said. "I didn't even know what he was getting at, and then I asked 'Why are you asking me this?' Then he said, 'Oh, Chicago needs a goalie,' and I just lost it. So he said 'Go home, get your stuff, and if they're going to use you, they'll call you.' I left right away and 10 minutes later I got a call."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Semborski's name was on a list provided by the Flyers, but Semborski said he had no idea who recommended him.

"Whoever did, thank you because it was awesome," Semborski said.

Video: PA local signs with Hawks prior to tilt vs. Flyers

Semborski's drive from Voorhees to his home in Manayunk, Pennsylvania, to get his goaltending equipment and then back to Wells Fargo Center took him about an hour with traffic.

"Got here fast as I could, in my street clothes," he said. "No time to put on a tie."

Along the way he called his parents, who live in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Joe Semborski, Eric's father, got a special present on his 58th birthday.

"I had to tell him three times," Eric said. His father didn't believe him.

Semborski got to the locker room about 12:30 p.m. Darling said he and his teammates made Semborski feel welcome the best way they could; they razzed him for being late to the game. But no fine.

"We let him slide," Darling said.

Semborski quickly put on his gear, including one of Crawford's No. 50 jerseys with Semborski's name sewed on, and went out for warmups.

"I was a bit rusty," he said. "But no matter how much I play, I'm not going to be ready for them. It was fast and I couldn't even catch my breath because I was just trying to take it all in. … Playing against the best guys in the world, I knew I wasn't going to stop most of them. I was lucky if it hit me."

He did make a save on Patrick Kane, last season's NHL scoring leader, on one of the final shots.

"That was pretty cool," he said. "I'll remember that one."

While Semborski was having his moment, his former Temple teammates were playing against Lehigh University.

"I think at first I had to read it a couple times to really kind of believe it," said Ryan Dumbach, the team president and a defenseman. "You know you've got the joke of going from club to the NHL, but today somebody actually got to do it. (It) was (a) pretty surreal experience to see one of your old teammates be dressed in an NHL lineup."

Semborski said he never thought he'd get into the game Saturday, but Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he thought about putting him in during the second period.

"That probably would have been a big mistake," Semborski said with a laugh.

Quenneville pulled Darling with 1:31 remaining in the third period for an extra attacker, and after the game told Semborski that if the Flyers had scored he would have gone in to finish the game.

"That would have been so cool," he said. "(I) wouldn't change a thing though."

Semborski said he got a few autographed pucks, a Blackhawks hat, and a promise that they will send him a jersey. He won't get any money, but he said that didn't matter.

"I signed some stuff when I came in, but I don't know what it was," he said. "Really, I'm happy with a hat and the memories. This is so cool."

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