Reusse: Goaltender Sikich gets the call of a lifetime
Zach Sikich took a three-week break from his company, ProHybrid, to be with his wife Jessica, 2-year-old son Henrik and, mostly, to help care for Illya, a daughter born on Feb. 20.
There was a call to his cell phone early on Tuesday afternoon. It was a call from David McNab, the assistant general manager for the Anaheim Ducks.
A year earlier, Sikich had served as a practice goaltender for the Ducks when they were in St. Paul to play the Wild. Anaheim was looking to give the much-worked Jonas Hiller the morning off.
McNab was riding to St. Cloud the previous night with Chris Sall, working as an intern at the Octagon Hockey players’ agency. McNab mentioned his need for a second goalie at the next morning’s skate.
“Chris was my best friend at St. Thomas, so he gave Mr. McNab my cell phone,” Sikich said. “And I had a chance to take shots against the extras the next day.”
Things had been too frantic in the Sikich household with the new baby for Zach to be closely following the Wild.
“When I saw the call from Mr. McNab, I said to Jessica, ‘We have to check to see if the Ducks are in town,’” Sikich said. “When I found out they were, I called it right back.
“David made some small talk, asked me if I had been skating. I said, ‘Oh, sure, I’ve been getting a lot of time on the ice.’ Then he told me that [Viktor] Fasth had been hurt during the skate and they needed a goaltender to be in uniform as a backup.”
And when McNab asked, “When can you be here?’’ Sikich nearly jumped out of his skin.
He arrived at the Xcel Energy Center at 4:30 p.m. “The best part was getting out of the suit I wore to the arena, hanging those clothes into a locker, starting getting into hockey gear, taping sticks,’’ Sikich said. “To do that before an NHL game was a tremendous thrill.”
He said a number of the Ducks recognized him from the previous year. “They came over and said, ‘Welcome back,’” he said. “They couldn’t have treated me any better.”
Sikich was on the bench for the start of the game. He was hard to miss, with his blue pads.
“Blue is one of our colors at ProHybrid,’’ he said. “When I was getting pads a while back, I wanted a distinctive color, so people would ask about them, and I could plug Pro Hybrid.”
Sikich’s time on the NHL roster lasted roughly 14 minutes. There was a tough-guy fight taking place between the Ducks’ Patrick Maroon and the Wild’s Zenon Konopka when Jeff DeLauriers showed up to replace Sikich.
DeLauriers had been summoned by the Ducks from Fort Wayne, Ind., on Tuesday afternoon. His plane landed around game time and he rushed to the arena.
Sikich comes from Eveleth. He was a goaltender on the Golden Bears’ team that won the Class 1A title in 1999. He played two years for the Sioux Falls Stampede in junior hockey, then went to the Air Force Academy.
He played 10 games as a freshman. He transferred to the University of St. Thomas and played 58 games in the nets in three seasons.
“For two summers, I worked as a roofer,” Sikich said. “I decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do for a living. I started ProHybrid while I was in college.”
ProHybrid is a goalie training school. There were a few hockey travels before Sikich made that his full-time occupation.
“If you look at my pro playing record, it’s like I played 10 years in the pros,’’ Sikich said. “Actually, it was like three.”
Sikich’s teams were the Motor City Mechanics, the Jacksonville Barracudas, the Long Beach Ice Dogs, the Danbury Trashers, the Fort Wayne Komets, the Phoenix Roadrunners and the Elmira Jackals.
And, finally, in the winter of 2007-08, he was the goalie for the China Sharks in Beijing. “Living in an American hotel in downtown Beijing was a lot more interesting than being back in Elmira … not to say anything bad about Elmira,” Sikich said.
Sikich, 32, had not been dressed for a pro game since then - until those precious 14 minutes of clock time sitting on a bench surrounded by big leaguers on Tuesday night.
For this, Sikich will receive a check for $500, keep the Ducks jersey with No. 31 on the back, and be able to tell his goaltending pupils for years about the night he was an NHLer.