Mike Sielski of the Wall Street Journal has written a great piece on the collective bargaining agreement clause that keeps our hopes and dreams alive: The 24-hour Amateur Tryout Offer.
An obscure provision in the NHL’s labor agreement allows its franchises to replace an injured player on its roster by offering a 24-hour tryout to an amateur player.
NHL teams operate under a salary cap, so if they were to sign a professional player to cover them during an emergency, the money would count against their limit.
This rule allows teams to avoid that inconvenience by hiring a temp, so long as he agrees to play for free.
“It’s kind of a fantasy-hockey thing,” said Jim Nill, assistant general manager of the Detroit Red Wings.
We recently saw the ATO put to use when Minnesota signed 51-year-old embroidery store owner Paul Deutsch to a one-day deal. Deutsch was a stopgap solution after Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom (personal reasons) and AHL callup Matt Hackett (stuck traveling) were thought to be unable to attend that night’s game. Deutsch didn’t end up getting to dress for the game — Hackett made it to the rink after the pregame shoot-around — but his story garnered quite a bit of attention.
So much attention that Sielski did some digging. Turns out there have been 16 players to join the NHL via ATO since the start of the 2007-08 season, according to Stats LLC. The most notable is Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader, who parlayed his one-day deal into a three-year contract (which he signed the next day) though traditionally, the contracts mostly seem to go to goalies.
Goalies like Torrie Jung, who cleaned himself up and became an Edmonton Oiler:
Having just finished morning practice with his junior team on Nov. 21, 2009, Jung—a goaltender—was planning a quiet afternoon of movies and videogames. Instead, his coach called to tell him that Edmonton Oilers’ goalie Nikolai Khabibulin had hurt his back, and the team needed an emergency sub for a home game against Chicago. Jung, then 20, ate a quick lunch, showered, put on his favorite shirt and tie and “did my hair up nice” before hustling over to Rexall Place for the game—a 5-2 Edmonton loss.
“I wanted to make sure I didn’t have bed head or anything,” said Jung, who plays for the minor-league Laredo Bucks. “I didn’t want to look like a bum walking into an NHL rink.”
Ahhh, to be 20 again. The only time you worry about having bed head in the late afternoon.