It was the usual pre-game morning practice for the Vancouver Canucks at GM Place on December 9th, 2003. However, a breakaway drill would change everything. On a routine move in his crease during the drill, Dan Cloutier injured his groin so severely he needed help off the ice. While Cloutier ultimately recovered, the Canucks were given the news he would be unable to play in that night's tilt versus the Penguins. As would be expected, Vancouver's front office phoned the AHL affiliate Manitoba Moose so as to call up a goaltender to serve as backup to second-string netminder Johan Hedberg. However, there simply wasn't enough time to fly a farmhand in from Manitoba. As the hours slipped away, and along with them other options, the Canucks placed a desperate call to the University of British Columbia- home of the CIU Thunderbirds. Goaltender Chris Levesque of the team was signed to a one-day contract. Never tested in front of any team outside the CIU, Levesque was a dangerous but ultimately necessary choice if the Canucks wanted to avoid forfeiting the contest.
As the news reached the public, fans half-wondered if the untested, unprepared young man might somehow draw into the game.
As it was, it almost happened.
At the 1:00 mark of the first period, Hedberg collided with a Penguin at the blueline after chasing a puck. Lying on the ice for a good 60 seconds, it looked as though the third stringer might have to go into his first NHL game.
Hedberg managed to get up and finish the game, but for that small stretch of time, everyone- including Levesque- wondered if the impossible might happen.
Since I'm oh-so-bored, and we hockey fans have no fresh NHL action to talk about... how do you think Levesque would have done had he had to play the remaining 2 periods? Hedberg said afterwards that no injury could have kept him from the net, as it wasn't "fair to (Levesque)". A true statement, to be sure. But something almost did.... what if?
The Canucks would have played a more conservative style in front of him and knowing his inexperience would have played hard to keep the shot total down. Also, the Pens were not fielding a strong lineup at that point.
I've never seen him play, so I don't know how he would have fared. I seem to remember hearing an interview with him where he sounded as though he would have been nervous. A couple of saves and he could have gotten into the flow of the game and played well. The Pens would not have seen him before either, so that would be a bit of an advantage.
He would have been shelled and embarassed. I've seen this guy play at UBC (cousin goes there) and he's not that great, i can tell you from what i saw that this guy would have left the game crying, literally.