PHILADELPHIA —If you look at the photos from that day, you don’t have to squint very hard to notice the incongruity. Ignore the broad smile under the mask, and you’ll see the feathers painted on it. Look past the bright orange jersey, and you’ll find the familiar Indian-head logo on his glove. And his blocker. And his pads.
Yes, Eric Semborski lived his dream of being a Philadelphia Flyer on April 1. But he was a Chicago Blackhawk first, and he has the equipment to prove it.
“They’re definitely my team in the West,” Semborski said over the phone Wednesday night. “I definitely have two teams now.”
Semborski, or as he’s come to be known with affection, Blackhawks Legend Eric Semborski, was the local Philadelphia-area youth hockey coach the Hawks frantically summoned to be their emergency backup goaltender last December when Corey Crawford was rushed to the hospital to have his appendix taken out. Semborski wore Crawford’s No. 50 jersey with a new nameplate hurriedly attached, took warmups — even stopped a Patrick Kane wrist shot —and got to be an NHL player for a day.
His arrival to the rink that day brought some much-needed levity to a dressing room that was heavy with concern for Crawford. The Hawks razzed Semborski because he wasn’t wearing a suit, and because he showed up 45 minutes before puck drop. They told him he had to throw in 200 bucks for the holiday party, the standard fine for kangaroo court.
Semborski didn’t play that day, but he became a part of Hawks lore all the same. The Hawks flew him and his wife out to Chicago for a game against the Dallas Stars later that month, and hooked him up with all-new goalie equipment —emblazoned with the Hawks logo, of course. So when the Flyers needed an emergency backup after Steve Mason got the flu in April, Semborski was ready — and decked out in Hawks gear. This time, he caught some grief from the Flyers, who joked that he needed some orange paint.
Semborski still lives in the area, but now works as an event manager at the PPL Center in Allentown, home to the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms. It’s more than an hour away from the Wells Fargo Center, but Semborski is still on the Flyers’ short list of emergency goalies, and still keeps his goalie gear in his car (and some more at his house), just in case.
“Whenever I’m around, I’m ready,” he said.
The Hawks front office has kept in touch with Semborski, and invited him to Thursday’s morning skate, where he’ll get to say hi to some of his former teammates. A Hawk for a day, a Hawk for life.
“Every once in a while, people recognize me or recognize my name and ask me about it,” Semborski said. “It’s pretty cool. It was just such a great story, and people just like to hear about it.”
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