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‘I might have a few butterflies’: Meet the Winnipeg Jets emergency goalies

Winnipeg Jets emergency goalie Joe Caligiuri makes a save in the local lawyers league at the Winnipeg Winter Club. Jordan Pearn / Global News

WINNIPEG – He’s a teacher by day, but after the bell rings Steve Christie starts training for his night job.

It doesn’t exactly pay, but it comes with big possibilities.

The National Hockey League introduced a new rule this past season requiring every home team to have an emergency goalie in the building that’s available if injuries strike.

“I can imagine if I did have to throw on the gear and get one injury away from having to go in, I might have a few butterflies going in the stomach,” Christie said.

Christie is one of seven players on rotation in Winnipeg to serve as the emergency goalie. Every home game a player watches from the press box in case either team needs a spare.

A former Manitoba Bisons tender, Christie has played in the last five straight Allan Cups for the national senior championship. But it’s been five years since a brief stint in the pros.

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“It makes you miss the game a lot more than you thought,” Christie said. “Once you kinda go to the game with the thought in mind that ‘hey maybe I’ll get to go in again.”

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Joe Caligiuri also knows that feeling. He’s also the backup to the backup. While he’s practiced with the Jets in the past, the most serious hockey he’s playing these days is in the local law league as an aspiring lawyer.

“If the opportunity did come I think you just roll with it.” Caligiuri said.

“We didn’t play at that level for a reason, but at the same time we’ve all played the position at high junior levels or college levels. So it’s not like it’s something that’s brand new to us.”

They do get paid if they’re called in to play. That happened against the Jets last season. When they were in Chicago back in March, accountant Scott Foster came into the game in the third period and proceeded to shutout the Jets.

A third goalie was not called on the ice in Winnipeg this past season and for some of them, that’s just fine.

“To be honest, that’s not really my expectation or even my hope necessarily,” Caligiuri said.

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“I think it’s a cool thing to be able to do, and to go there and watch, and sit up in the press box, but was it a dream as a kid to do that ? For sure, but at this point that dream is behind me.”

Happy to do it for two free game tickets, a hot meal, and maybe that chance to play.

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