ST. LOUIS – When Kyle Konin donned a St. Louis Blues sweater and took to the ice in warmups as an emergency backup goalie for the team in Tampa earlier this month, he had more than just friends and family, and Blues fans who had never heard of him before cheering him on.
Tyler Stewart knows exactly what Konin was experiencing because he’d gone through it, almost four years to the day.
Stewart knew Konin through an Instagram chat that brings together current and former emergency backup goalies, or EBUGS, together.
Stewart’s message to Konin that day? Enjoy it, knowing that the Blues were going to treat him well.
“It was pretty cool to see him get in there and I was happy for him, even though he’s a Tampa Bay guy he probably still enjoyed it,” he said.
Teams have at least one EBUG on standby for home games. Stewart was the Blues’ only EBUG for parts of three seasons, starting in 2017. The status came about as the result of years spent skating with players in practice starting with NHL lockout of 2012-2013.
“At the time I accepted the position I never thought in a million years I’d warm up or even skate with them like I did pretty regularly randomly throughout the year but it was a whirlwind. I’m super fortunate, lucky…it’s amazing when you look back on accepting the one invite that one time would turn into what it turned into,” he told FOX2.
The position, he said, is kind of like an unpaid internship, one that would likely not have been possible were it not for the flexibility of working for the family business, Cardinal Vending.
“It’s a grind in terms of, you’re not getting paid so I work my real job all day. You gotta be at the game on time, you can’t drink any alcohol at the game, you can’t leave when they’re winning 5-0 with five minutes left in the third period or 10 minutes left because you want to beat traffic. You gotta be there the entire game, you can’t be late. It’s also 41 games a year, that’s a lot. I think the first year I did 38 out of41 second year I did 39 of 41. Third year, I did all the games until COVID happened.”
There were no EBUGS in the NHL bubble for when the season resumed, and in September, Stewart said the time commitment no longer fit with his family’s schedule.
It’s still easy to get flashbacks to his night of hockey fame, Stewart said, when he’ll randomly get recognized at a hockey rink. “It’s just crazy how big a deal it was at the time. It went so fast and it almost reminds me like my wedding night, you know what I mean, you go through it and it’s just over in ten minutes it feels like…it feels like it was just yesterday even though it was 2017.”
So what does the former emergency backup think of the present goaltender predicament, with the Blues now forced to use two Charlie Lindgren and Jon Gillies, goalies with limited NHL experience while the team waits for Jordan Binnington to return from COVID and Ville Husso to recover from injury while salary cap constraints keep Joel Hofer in the AHL with Springfield?
“I know a lot about Charlie Lindgren, he’s a good goalie, he got up with the Canadiens a few years ago, he’s not some kind of amateur. He’s got more NHL games than Ville Husso, a lot of people don’t even realize that…..he’s not some minor league goalie, he’ll be able to handle it, especially with the Blues, they’ll play good defense for him, I think he’ll be fine. I think people will be surprised actually coming out of this,” Stewart said.