Rob Laurie was on his lunch break from his nine-to-five job when he got the call from the Minnesota Wild—would he be available tonight as an emergency backup goaltender? Of course, the 43-year-old obliged and signed a Professional Tryout Agreement with the club.
Laurie was called into action because Darcy Kuemper suffered an upper-body injury at the team’s morning skate. He will backup Ilya Bryzgalov.
“I got a call from a friend that said Minnesota was looking for a guy and had passed along my number and just be aware I might get a phone call,” Laurie said.
The lunchtime call was a familiar one for Laurie, who has twice been called upon to serve as a backup netminder for a National Hockey League club. He first acted as an emergency goaltender last season for the Anaheim Ducks on April 5, 2013. He did it again this year with the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 5, 2014.
The Wild is also familiar with the situation. On Nov. 23, 2011, Minnesota signed Paul Deutsch to an Amateur Tryout Contract to serve as an emergency goaltender to Josh Harding as the team faced the Nashville Predators.
The goaltender does have professional experience, playing 10 years in various minor leagues. His minor-league career reads like a roadmap of visits to smaller cities scattered across the country. Laurie spent stints with the Roanoke Valley Rampage (ECHL), Dayton Bombers (ECHL), Johnstown Chiefs (ECHL), Greensboro Monarchs (ECHL), Adirondack Red Wings (AHL), Toledo Storm (ECHL), Tallahassee Tiger Sharks (ECHL), Toledo Storm (ECHL), Huntington Blizzard (ECHL), Fort Worth Brahmas (WPHL), Flint Generals (UHL), Austin Ice Bats (WPHL) and El Paso Buzzards (CHL).
Laurie skates a few times a week, and occasionally skates with Anaheim when they need an extra tender. In fact, about a week and a half ago, with the Ducks, was the most recent time he strapped on the pads.
So, he has experience facing NHL shooters. However, nothing prepares a part-timer for entering an actual NHL game, which was almost the case when he backed up Eddie Lack for Vancouver. Lack was shaken up during the contest and, for a moment, Laurie thought he might have to enter into the game.
“I knew the camera was going to be on me,” Laurie said, a smile creeping across his face. “I got a little ribbing because I worked my gum over pretty well, I guess.
“Typical backup goalie. Nothing to do, so you cram as many pieces of gum in your mouth as possible.”
Even though it will be the third time he’s suited up in an NHL locker room, he’s still in awe.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Laurie said. “Obviously, you don’t want to take any focus off of them and what they’re doing. It’s amazing seeing some of the names you see on TV.
“I’m a big NHL fan, so to see these guys in their natural environment, so to speak, before a game is something special.”
Laurie will wear No. 33 for the Wild. For his efforts, aside from the paycheck, he also gets to keep the jersey.
“I don’t know if I can afford to get some cases for them,” Laurie joked. “I have a Vancouver one now and Anaheim. This Minnesota jersey is awesome, so I’m going to have something cool to do with them.”