Commentary: Everyday Joe playing in NHL game provides inspiration for us all

We start with a story that would’ve made a perfect April Fools Day joke – except it actually happened: The 36-year-old accountant who played in an actual NHL game this week, and succeeded.

That is Scott Foster, who normally plays in a recreational league at a rink called Johnny’s Icehouse. But on Thursday, he was called in for emergency duty by the Chicago Blackhawks. He played more than 14 minutes. Saved seven shots. And didn’t allow a single goal.

By the end of the game, the crowd was chanting his name. And then, he went back to his 9 to 5 job at his accounting firm – but not before addressing a throng of media after the game.

“The initial shock happened when I had to dress. And then, I think you just kind of blackout after that,” Foster said. “From my perspective, this is a dream regardless. This is something no one can ever take away from me. Something I can tell my kids, and they can tell their friends.”

So, how did this happen? The NHL requires home teams to have an emergency goalie present to fill in for either team to be on standby in the unlikely scenario that they run out of goaltender options.

They’re essentially the “Designated Survivors” of pro hockey.

Foster, who played 12 years ago for Western Michigan, began Thursday as a press box attendee. The Blackhawks first-string goalie was already hurt. Their backup goalie was injured before the game. And then their fill-in goalie making his NHL debut, had to leave the game in the third period because of cramping.

So, with all the boys at Johnny’s IceHouse… and the rest of Chicago looking on…. in comes Foster. A few hours after sitting at his computer at Golub Capital, he’s facing the playoff-bound Winnipeg Jets who are on a six-game winning streak, and proceeds to stop all seven shots, win adoration from the crowd, and earn the team’s player of the game belt.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that pro athletes – especially superstars like LeBron James or Bryce Harper - are put on an almost unreachable pedestal by fans.

But the rare story of an Everyday Joe somehow sharing the stage with those pro athletes are the best. Because we all can relate to that guy – the one who’s not supposed to be there.

This week, that distinction will also go to 31-year-old Matt Parziale, a firefighter with Ladder Company 1 in Massachusetts. He’ll be playing at The Masters against the best golfers in the world, thanks to his mid-Amateur Championship last summer. He’ll also play in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills and the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach.

But actually succeeding among the best in the game is even more rare. So rare that they make movies about it: “The Rookie” and “Rudy.”

That’s what Scott Foster did. He got his unlikely shot – seven of them, in fact – and made every save.

It’s not only an inspirational story, it’s a relatable one too. And best of all, on April Fools Day, it’s definitely not a joke.