The worst Chicago hockey season in a decade had a real feel-good moment last week when 36-year-old accountant Scott Foster became an NHL legend and tied a record that can never be broken.
Foster is now the proud owner of a 1.000 save percentage, the result of 14 perfect minutes against the Winnipeg Jets at the end of a 6-2 Chicago victory. The NHL requires teams to have an emergency goaltender on hand for all games, ready to suit up for either team, and Foster was pressed into action on Thursday night when Chicago’s Anton Forsberg was hurt before the game and Collin Delia cramped up in the third period.
It happens a few times a year that an emergency backup has to dress because one goalie gets sick or hurt early in the day and a minor league callup is unavailable. In February, it was revealed that the New York Rangers give their standby goalie a “McBACKUP 69” jersey, which is particularly funny when you consider the Rangers’ own history of emergency goaltending – in 1928, coach Lester Patrick came off the bench in a Stanley Cup Final game, and won it, on the way to the Blueshirts winning the championship.
What is not funny in this situation is that Foster, the No. 1 star of Thursday night’s game, and really the star of the sports world for a day, gets nothing for his work.
As Mark Lazerus wrote in a fantastic game story for the Chicago Sun-Times: “His payment? No money, but a lifetime of bragging rights at Johnny’s IceHouse and a heck of a story to tell his two young kids in Oak Park.”
It’s okay that Foster would not be paid for his appearance in the game. Every time he is designated as the emergency goalie, he gets to watch an NHL game for free, usually from the press box, and enjoy some free food – and in Chicago, they happen to have some of the best press box food in the league. And, it’s part of a deal that Foster agreed to, as does everyone else in his position.
Where it becomes decidedly uncool is with what happens after the emergency backup goalie steps onto the ice and becomes a folk hero, complete with a hashtag like #FosterOfThePeople, because of course there was a hashtag.
The next morning, the NHL was out there cashing in on Foster’s performance with the hashtag and an invitation to buy Scott Foster jerseys and t-shirts on the official league shop. What must be noted is that the ad is an enticement to “customize your Scott Foster gear today,” with the link going to a page where Chicago merchandise could be made with any name and number. Yes, “McBACKUP 69” would have worked, but the images were of “FOSTER 90” shirts, only, of course, with zero compensation going to Scott Foster, because fans buying those shirts could be referring to any old Foster, and maybe everyone’s favorite number is 90. You don’t know.
It would be so easy to make this right. Put Foster’s jersey in the actual team shop, let people buy it, and give the guy a cut like he’s a real NHL player – because for one night, that’s exactly what he was.
That’s not going to happen, but at least Foster now has a chance to serve as the emergency backup catcher for the Frisco RoughRiders, after getting an invitation from the minor league baseball team in Texas. And we all know that minor league baseball is famous for treating its players well when it comes to compensation, right? Right? Aw, crap.