By Hayden Godfrey
Taylor Dupuis has played five seasons with the Ryerson Rams men’s hockey team, but what most people don’t know is that he’s also served as Scotiabank Arena’s emergency backup goalie nine times during the 2018-19 season.
So when Dave Ayres—an operations department manager at the Mattamy Athletic Centre—stepped onto the ice to serve as the emergency goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes, Dupuis was automatically invested in what would happen next.
“I think I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to get in [the game],” he said. “Just because it’s an experience of a lifetime. But at the same time, you hate to see people get injured. There’s always a little part of me that’s just thinking, ‘What if?’”
In his fourth season at Ryerson, Dupuis tied a program record for wins in a season while boasting a .824 win percentage, which ranked him second across Ontario University Athletics. At one point in his career, he competed against some of the top young talents in the world, even going semi-viral for being the victim of a deke from a 17-year-old Connor McDavid in 2015.
Appearing in an NHL game is undoubtedly the ultimate goal of young players across Canada. Having seen someone like Ayres face a shot from Toronto Maple Leafs star John Tavares drummed up emotions for those who missed being able to achieve that dream.
But even with all of that, fate never gave Dupuis a chance to appear in an NHL game despite him having a small chance of doing so on several occasions. He was next in line to step in during a Toronto Marlies game but never got the call. He only served as the emergency backup for the Marlies and the Leafs’ farm team once.
“There’s always a little part of me that’s just thinking, ‘What if?’”
Being an emergency backup goalie—or EBUG for short—is rather unglamorous, unless of course you’re summoned to enter the game.
On the day of each game, the home team provides a nosebleed ticket and tells the EBUG in question to keep their phone on and charged, just in case they’re needed urgently. EBUGs are required to be at the arena by 6 p.m. for a 7 p.m. puck drop and have to escape the post-game traffic just like all fans.
Normally, Dupuis hails down a cab to the arena and stays low key throughout the evening, knowing there’s a chance—albeit a minuscule one—that he’ll enter the game on the world’s largest stage.
Admittedly, Dupuis said it’s a little weird sitting in the stands alone wearing business casual clothing.
“It’s kinda funny because you’re sitting there as the EBUG and everyone else around you thinks you’re watching the game alone,” he told The Eyeopener. “Any ticket is a good ticket, so you can’t really complain about that.”
Though Dupuis passed on the opportunity to be an EBUG this year, his teammates Troy Timpano and Garrett Forrest have both taken his place at a few games, though neither of them have suited up, as expected.
The Leafs usually reach out to Ryerson at the beginning of every season to see if any of the team’s goalies would be interested in serving as the EBUG throughout the year. The Leafs and their parent company Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), have a notable connection to Ryerson, going back to Troy Passingham, a former Rams netminder who practiced with the team in 2015.
An EBUG gets $500 if they play in the game and a small honorarium if they don’t end up playing. Only three emergency backup goalies—Scott Foster (Chicago Blackhawks, 2018), Jorge Alves (Carolina Hurricanes, 2016) and most recently Ayres—have ever appeared in an NHL game.
“He was all smiles after, which was pretty special for a good guy”
In the early 2010s, NHL made it mandatory for every stadium to have an EBUG on-hand to play for either team. Some, like former NHLer and current goaltending coach Rob Tallas (who almost entered into a game for the Florida Panthers in 2013), have high-level experience. But others, like Ayres, are simply in the right place at the right time.
And so, despite never appearing in a game, Dupuis wasn’t disappointed or angry that Ayres got into a game before him. In fact, there’s nothing but love from the Rams goaltender.
“I guess he’s on quite the tour right now,” he said with a smile. “He was all smiles after, which was pretty special for a good guy. I think it just goes to show what kind of guy Dave is.”