It happens all the time. Someone gets hurt and a hopeful from the minors gets the call they’ve been waiting for.
“Get your gear, yer skatin’.”
No matter how hot the players keep the road going back and forth between Springfield and Glendale, no matter how miraculously instant the communication, there is still that niggling detail of time and space. There was just too little of the former and way too much of the latter to get someone from the Falcons in Springfield to Arizona in time to serve as a backup goalie for Louis Domingue, on Monday night. It fell to Coyotes equipment manager, Stan Wilson, to complete a team administrative equivalent of a Hail Mary pass. Louis Domingue needed a backup who could stand up on the ice.
Nathan Schoenfeld was the name on Wilson’s speed dial under backup to the backup, or maybe under “son-in-law” or most likely just “Nathan.”
So was this nepotism in action? Not exactly. According to a report filed by Sarah McLellan of AZCentral, Schoenfeld is not just a well-connected fanboy who got his wish. The Arizona State Alumni played for his school’s team and skated with the Coyotes during summer training sessions. His link to the club goes beyond being a close associate to the Coyotes by marriage, it’s in his DNA. Nathan Schoenfeld’s father, Jim Schoenfeld, is known these days as the assistant general Manager of the New York Rangers, but back in the the late 90s, he coached the Desert Dogs.
The text came a little after 6:00 p.m. Mountain Time. Schoenfeld was otherwise engaged giving his 5-week-old twins a bath when Grampa called with more on his mind than whether his grandsons were splashing Daddy. The puck drop was at 7:00, could he make it? The 31-year-old almost didn’t believe his father-in-law when he got the message. That was when Wilson responded with the three words everyone in the NHL larvae farm system dreams of hearing — “Pack your bag.”
Cooperative traffic karma and a rush to get him in gear was all he needed to get out on the ice with Arizona’s fastest and coolest. According to Peter Botte of the Daily News, Schoenfeld did not arrive in time for the warmups. He just had time to get suited up and sign an amateur tryout agreement.
After that, he spent the rest of the evening on the bench. For any fan, the idea of donning Arizona Coyotes goalie gear and sitting on the bench in front of Dave Tippett would be an evening well spent. Schoenfeld, who has not skated in a competitive match since 2006, was pragmatic about his lack of ice time.
“I don’t think I’m game-ready, but ready in case they need me to sit on the bench.”
Domingue, the goalie Schoenfeld was there to relieve, had a good, if leisurely, night between the pipes. The official numbers show he stopped 17 of 19 pucks Montreal sent his way. When asked by AP if how he thought his emergency backup would have fared, he was complimentary of the club skater and credited his teammates for the Coyotes’ comfortable margin against the Canadiens that could have made it possible.
“The way we played tonight, I though he would have made it okay.”
Dave Tippett, head coach of the Coyotes and a person known for his almost reptilian collect in the face of emergencies, was nonplussed by his backup goalie for the evening.
“He’s a real nice person, real well-liked by the players. He skates with the players in the summer, so it’s not as if somebody just walked in off the street. The other thing is his dad’s been around the game a long time, so he knows what an NHL dressing room is like. But it’s still fun to see a guy sit in there after the game, sit in his equipment and take it all in.”
Speaking of Jim Schoenfeld, son Nathan told the Daily News he called his father on the way to Gila River Arena to ask if any Rangers scouts were attending the game. He stated his father got a kick out of the call.
Nathan Schoenfeld probably had some pretty interesting conversations at work the next day. That’s right, the most recent backup goalie for the Arizona Coyotes is back at work as a bank relations manager until the Coyotes call him up.
[Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images]