While the draft deadline brings a great deal of excitement and disappointment for players and fans alike, it’s fair to say that some of the changes tend to impact the game directly due to relocations and timing. Sometimes teams end up shorthanded with the wait time on new arrivals. And come game time, they’re scrambling to make up short falls.
That is exactly what happened for the Buffalo Sabres. Joe Battista, the team’s VP of hockey related business, was counting his chickens and coming up with a hole in the roster. What to do? The Sabres were about to square off with the San Jose Sharks at First Niagara Centre when the a deal got inked to send Steve Ott and Ryan Miller off to St. Louis. With their farm team on away play in Chicago, they were down a second goaltender for the Sharks game.
It’s times like this when it’s good to know who you know and Battista headed straight to the office of Ryan Vinz, Director of Hockey Technology for HarborCenter and a recreational player locally. When Battista asked him if he had his hockey gear, he did indeed and he was asked to suit up as the Sabres’ second goalie.
How does an executive desk jockey react to such a request? Vinz tells press that he was absolutely panicked and the invitation came completely out of left field. He just happened to be working late, cancelling plans with a colleague in order to complete a project he was presenting on the following Monday and his complete concentration was on the task at hand. Being asked to switch gears from the laptop to the net took him by surprise. But he rose to the occasion with aplomb.
Ryan Vinz played goal for his varsity team in high school and tried out for the Golden Knights team when he attended Clarkson University and instead landed the role of the video coordinator for the school’s hockey program. All he really wanted was a career in hockey so he didn’t look back. He joined the Sabres as a scout in 2007 and moved onto work for a hockey analysis software company called Sportstec after that. He had just joined the team at HarborCenter in his current role with a goal of bringing the technology up to date.
Vinz says he didn’t know what to expect and was grateful that Dave Williams, the equipment manager, stepped up to assist him with what was required of him. Vinz ended up working the door from the bench and didn’t have to hit the ice to replace Jhonas Enroth who was performing in spectacular fashion, with no need for backup that evening. The team trumped the Sharks in a 4-2 victory due in no small part to Enroth’s performance.
Vinz says that just riding the bench with the other players was an amazing experience providing him with a once in a lifetime perspective of the game. He thanked Jhonas Enroth after the game for not getting injured. Vinz states that he has so much respect for the players and describes his experience as completely different from watching them perform via video or in the press box. Hearing the coaches strategize and absorbing the intense emotion that stems through game play was exciting in itself.