A Chat With Gavin McHale, the Caps’ Backup Goalie for a Day

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Posted November 19, 2018

For Gavin McHale, the goaltending coach for the women’s hockey team at the University of Manitoba, November 14, 2018 will be a date that he will remember forever. He was called upon to be an emergency backup goalie for the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. Though it wasn’t his first time serving as a backup in the NHL, this time he let it sink in – and he got to keep his jersey.

Early that morning, before the Capitals had to face the Winnipeg Jets, the 31-year-old received a phone call from Caps goalie coach Scott Murray, letting him know that he might be needed that night. Braden Holtby, who was supposed to be the starting goalie against the Winnipeg Jets that day, suffered an upper body injury. The other option for the backup goaltender was Ilya Samsonov, who currently plays for the Hershey Bears, but didn’t have enough time to fly in for the game.

Here is our interview with him:

Capitals Outsider: When did you start playing hockey?
McHale: I started playing at the age of 7, and started playing goal at age 9.

Capitals Outsider: How, when and why did you decide to become a goalie?
McHale: I honestly decided to become a goalie because I was way better at that than playing out as a player. I tried it a couple times, then forced my parents to let me play full time!

Capitals Outsider: Favorite hockey player and/or role model?
McHale: Oh man, my favourite player growing up had to be Patrick Roy, but I also loved Curtis Joseph, Felix Potvin, and Martin Brodeur.

Capitals Outsider: Did you feel more nervous being a backup goalie for the Stanley Cup champions than the previously for the Avalanche?
McHale: I think the situations were so completely different that it’s hard to compare. This time around, I actually had time to let it sink in that I could very well be needed in an NHL game. The first time, it happened so fast that there was no time to prepare or think about it. It was also really nice to get to meet the players and really feel like just another guy on the team for that night.

Capitals Outsider: What was going through your head as you were sitting in the bench last Wednesday?
McHale: Man, it was a complete whirlwind. If I felt like I was getting nervous or thinking about the craziness of the situation, I just kept saying to myself “it’s just hockey. If you have to go out there, just play.

Capitals Outsider: How do you think you would do if you had ice time?
McHale: I would hope to shut them down! I think it would have been just fine, as the shots are much better than I’m used to, but so is the defending.

Capitals Outsider: What do you think about Scott Foster, who had to play in Chicago last year?
McHale: Scott Foster was inspiration to all of us Emergency Backups and I couldn’t have been more excited for him. I remember jumping around my living room watching the game, cheering for him to do well.

Capitals Outsider: If called to backup again, what team would you like it to be?
McHale: Well, of course, I’d love to suit up for the hometown Jets.

McHale had the opportunity to participate in the warm-up skate before the game and even to deny a couple of shots from the Stanley Cup Champions. He is very grateful for the friendly approach from all the players, who made him feel really as part of them. He even got a stick from Ovechkin. “I just want to thank the Capitals organization and the players for their first class treatment of me.” McHale  said.