Things got real for Jorge Alves on the final day of 2016. Really real.
Video: CAR@TBL: Equipment manager serves as backup goalie
Alves, one of the Carolina Hurricanes equipment managers, played goalie in a 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.
Signed to a professional tryout contract as an emergency backup goalie (EBUG) when Eddie Lack got sick earlier in the day, Alves dressed behind starter Cam Ward but didn't expect to play.
"It's unbelievable," the 37-year-old said. "I was actually heading back down the tunnel when I heard coach call my name. I couldn't believe it. I think it was (7.6) seconds or something. I just looking down the ice and seeing the puck in the corner and just hoping it would stay in the corner.
"When I did realize it was going to happen, it was kind of disbelief. For years it's always been kind of a joke around the locker room that I might go in today, and for it to actually happen. That was an amazing experience."
Before the game, Alves got choked up talking about the support he's received from his wife Amanda throughout his career.
But he didn't let all of the excitement take him away from his regular job.
Alves painted his own mask, (a tribute to fellow equipment managers Skip Cunningham, Bob Gorman and Dave Paul drawn by Erik Huffine, the brother of Hurricanes video coach Chris Huffine) and sharpened skates during the game, just as he would if he weren't wearing full goalie gear.
"I can't shake the habit; seriously I have a duty with the team and I wasn't going to change that," Alves said.
A native of Massachusetts, Alves has worked with the Hurricanes since the 2003-04 season. A U.S. Marines veteran, he played for the North Carolina State club team and in the ECHL and Southern Professional Hockey League.
"It was obviously a big day for him," Hurricanes center Jordan Staal said. "He's worked hard for us, he's been at practice a lot and taken a lot of high heat from us. He deserved a day like that."
It might have taken him 364 days to get there, but Alves finally had the professional highlight of his year.
"The guys were really excited for me and that meant a lot to me," he said.