Rookie of the Year? Minnesota Wild Signs 51-Year-Old Goalie

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Jeff Gross / Getty Images

Goaltender Niklas Backstrom, #32, missed Wednesday's game against the Nashville Predators.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, even in professional hockey. For the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, that means signing a middle-aged shop owner as a goaltender.

After the Wild’s starting goalie, Niklas Backstrom, announced he would miss the game against the Nashville Predators for an undisclosed personal matter, coaches called on former third goalie Matt Hackett from the Houston Aeros. Concerned whether Hackett’s plane would make it in time for the game, the Wild issued an amateur tryout contract to Paul Deutsch, a 51-year-old goalie who owns a screen printing and embroidery store in Richfield, Minn.

(READ: Hockey Grieves: Bruins Goalie Tim Thomas Reflects)

But Deutsch, who used to fill for injured goalies during Wild practices, never saw game time. “I actually was shaking while I was signing [the contract], Deutsch told the Star-Tribune. Fortunately Hackett’s plane arrived in time, but that didn’t stop Deutsch from suiting up. “Practice is one thing. I have to tell ya, the game faces are on, and I don’t see those very often,” Deutsch said. Backstrom is expected back on the ice in a couple days and Hackett is back in Houston.

NHL league rules do not permit teams to sign an emergency backup with pro experience, leaving Wild assistant coach Mike Ramsey to get creative by enlisting his friend and former high school teammate. Deutsch even listed “Minnesota Junior Varsity defenseman — 1978″ as his last team on the contract.

That’s right, a defenseman. Deutsch didn’t actually start playing goalie until he was 37 years old. “When you play senior men’s hockey and you show up to the rink and there is no goalie, there is no game,” he said. “So that’s how I started playing. I was tired of coming, walking into the room and, ‘Oh rats.’”

Looks like he made the right decision.

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