Every Friday I answer mail in my weekly "Ask The Hockey History Blogger" segment. This week Darryl from Thompson, Manitoba asks "When Did Teams Start Carrying Backup Goalies?"
An interesting question full of hockey history tidbits.
Until the 1960s, NHL teams only carried one goalie, which obviously caused problems if the goalie got hurt.
In the first few decades if a goalie got injured they game would simply have to stop until the goalie was all stitched up. If it was too serious, the game would have to continue with a skater in the nets! The NHL record book has dozens of examples of skaters tending to the nets.
In 1950 the NHL instituted a rule stating every home team was responsible in ensuring a spare goalie was available at each game. Often the goalie would be a local amateur star or the team trainer who often doubled as a practice goalie. The goalie in attendance was known as the "house goalie."
This was okay for the regular season, but teams were really in a bind if their goalie got injured in the playoffs. That's exactly what happened to Detroit in 1964. When Terry Sawchuk was unable to play due to injury, the Red Wings had no choice but to rely on minor league Bob Champoux. Amazingly the Wings won the game 5-4, but the NHL moved to legislate every team dressing two goalies for playoff games in 1965.
Starting in the 1965-66 season the rule was expanded to include every regular season game as well. The back up goalie was officially created.
By the way, the last skater to stand between the posts was Boston's Jerry Toppazzini. This happened on October 16, 1960, some 19 years after the last such occurrence. Though the house goalie was available to Boston, the Bruins opted to replace cut goalie Don Simmons with a skater as there was less than 30 seconds left in the game. Rather than wait for the house goalie to get his gear on, "Topper" Toppazzini took to the net. He did not face any shots.
Will we ever see a skater take to the nets again? Eventually, there likely will be another skater forced to take to the nets. It surprises me that we have not seen a game where two goalies for one team got hurt, putting the team in a bind. But it will happen.
Former star center Pierre Turgeon probably secretly wished for just that to happen on one of the teams he played for. Turgeon had his own set of customized goaltending equipment and would occasionally take shots in practice. He likely would have been quite excited of the opportunity to take to the crease in an actual game.
Do you want to Ask The Hockey History Blogger a question about hockey? Email Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org