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Photos by Carlett Spike and Tisa Della-Volpe December 22, 2017
Stephen “S.J.” Broadt has a management degree and a day job
Hockey has always been a major part of Stephen “S.J.” Broadt’s life. He played youth hockey while growing up in Marlton, New Jersey, had a distinguished career as a goalie for the University of Delaware’s club team and now coaches a youth hockey team in the New York metro area. For him — like lots of other hockey players — making it to the National Hockey League was a fizzling dream as he moved on and made use of his UD management degree.
That is until he put in an application to be an emergency backup goalie for the New Jersey Devils. Now, he’s just one stomach bug and one sprained ankle away from standing in goal during an NHL game.
More than 400 post-college level and former pro goalies applied to the Devils’ open call. Broadt made it through the first cut and joined 14 others for a one-hour tryout at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. He was careful not to get his hopes up.
Sure enough, the Devils called a few days later.
“It was just a random New Jersey number, but I had been looking out for it,” Broadt said of watching his phone. “They were like, ‘Yeah this is that moment where we want to ask you if you want to do this for the season.’ And I was just like, ‘Yeah this would be awesome.’ ”
Broadt signed an NHL amateur contract for the 2017-18 season. Broadt is one of four amateur goalies chosen by the Devils to be emergency backup goalies (EBUGs for short). The other three amateurs are working guys like him who are also active in hockey in some way. The team also selected four goalies with previous pro experience. The only compensation is two tickets to the game, his own seating and a parking pass.
Given the often frantic scramble to find a backup goalie when the situation does arise, the NHL created a new rule for the 2017-18 season: All teams are required to have at least one emergency goalie near their home location that can fill in for either team. NHL teams always have two full-time professional goalies on their roster - a starter and a backup - for every game, home and away. But if the starter or the backup is injured just before or during the game, the emergency goalie would get dressed in that team’s uniform. He can sit on the bench or stay in the locker room.
The odds might seem long for being called on to dress for a game, but it has happened. On Dec. 7, 2017, the St. Louis Blues needed Tyler Stewart to replace backup goalie Carter Hutton, who was injured earlier in the day, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Stewart made it as far as warming-up with the Blues and waited in the locker room during the first period in case starting goalie Jake Allen was injured during the game against Dallas. When Hutton was injured, the Blues called up goalie Ville Husso from their minor league team based in San Antonio, but Husso did not arrive until late in the first period. Once Husso was ready, Stewart took off the Blues uniform and went to a seat in the stands.
Devils’ management decided to choose eight goalies to share the responsibility because they said it would be too much to ask one person to attend 41 home games and possibly more if the team makes the playoffs. The team created a rotating schedule for the emergency goalies in September before the season started.
Devils’ goalie development coach Scott Clemmensen said Broadt stood out for a couple of reasons.
“Attitude was important to us, but then obviously physical traits — being able to get through a practice,” Clemmensen said. “It was the talent level, it was the work ethic, it was attitude and demeanor as well. So he made the list and it's well deserved.”
Broadt, 28, played four seasons (2009-13) for the highest level of UD’s three men’s ice hockey club teams. He compiled a 70-12-1 record with 14 shutouts. In 2011-12, he was the player of the year in Division I in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, which is the governing body for club teams in U.S. colleges. In 2017, he was inducted into the UD Hockey Hall of Fame.
Beyond the Devils, Broadt stays active in hockey today through coaching and informal pickup games.
“I’m supposed to be playing and staying in shape on my own, obviously,” Broadt said. “So, I coach and stuff like that, so I’m always on the ice. I’m always trying to find ways to continue to play, in case — you never know right?
As a youth goalie coach, he often demonstrates the drills and is on the ice with his team. Some of his friends also play in adult pickup games, so he’s always willing to fill.
Ryan McDonald, a fellow UD hockey teammate who co-coaches the youth hockey team with Broadt, recalled the excitement over the news.
“There was this huge reaction from the youth hockey community and the organization that we’re coaching at. Everyone was super excited,” McDonald said. “All the local clubs we play against in the tri-state area got wind of what he’s doing, and he’s kind of a local celebrity here.”
McDonald and Broadt grew up playing youth hockey for competing teams before becoming teammates at UD.
“Everyone thinks S.J.’s a good guy and I think he’s remained very humble through everything with the Devils,” McDonald said. “Obviously, it’s a huge accomplishment that a very small subset of people get to ultimately do, so he’s taken it with humility.”
On Dec. 12, the Devils played at home against the Los Angeles Kings. Broadt watched the game from a small table overlooking section 12 inside the Prudential Center. On days when he serves as the emergency backup goalie, Broadt leaves early from his job as a district manager with payroll company ADP to drive through Manhattan to Newark. Upon arrival at the Prudential Center, Broadt parks in the players’ parking lot and stores his gear in a separate locker room, housed between the home and guest teams.
On that night, Broadt wore the grey suit he wore to work, with a player’s pass around his neck — clearly identifying him and his role for the night. He’s assigned to attend about ten games during the season and can bring a guest to each one. His guests are a rotation of his loved ones — for this game, he brought his girlfriend. His father, sister and one of her friends also attended this game.
When Broadt played for UD, he stuck to the same routine on game days.
“I always eat the same thing before a game,” Broadt said. “When I get dressed, I get dressed a certain way. I try not to complicate it too much. I don’t think of it as ritualistic, but it's something I do. It’s just a schedule.”
He used to always eat some type of pasta. Now, it is a little different because he does not know if he will actually play.
During the games he mostly waits. He said he is a little nervous before he arrives at the arena, but that feeling quickly shifts to excitement.
As for his plan if he ever makes it on the ice, he said he doesn’t have one.
“You can’t think about it. You just got to play,” Broadt said. “You can’t get nervous. As soon as you tense up that’s when you get scored on. It’s best to know that you’re prepared and just jump in.”
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