When Knick Dawe woke up on Saturday Feb. 7, his plan for the day was simple.
After arriving back home late after a game in Windsor the night before, the Ryerson Rams goaltender was going to have a relaxing brunch. What transpired was an opportunity of a lifetime, and something he would have never expected.
By the end of the day, he had dressed as a member of the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.
And he had spent a nervous couple of hours sitting on the end of the bench — part of the time hoping he’d get called upon to go into the net, part of the time praying for just the opposite.
“Half of me wanted something to happen so that I could get the chance to go in and prove myself. But at the same time, the other half of me was scared to death. I was praying for the best and nothing to go wrong,” Dawe says.
The story of Dawe’s unexpected journey to the Ricoh Coliseum, home of the Marlies, began to unfold as he was sitting down to eat.
“I had just sat down to order my breakfast and coffee when I pulled out my phone and saw that I had 14 missed calls from my coach, Graham Wise. I called him back right away to see what was so urgent,” said Dawe, a Penetang, Ont., native in his first year with the Rams.
When Dawe got ahold of his coach, he was told that Reid Mitchell from the Toronto Maple Leafs was trying to reach him.
Mitchell wanted Dawe to dress as backup goalie for the Marlies who were to play the Iowa Wild that afternoon.
Leafs’ goalie Jonathan Bernier had suffered an injury earlier that day at the morning skate.
With a game that evening, the Leafs called up Marlies’ goaltender, Antoine Bibeau. That put the Marlies, the Leafs’ AHL affiliate, in need of a backup goalie.
“Reid Mitchell asked me first if I was willing to come and second if I could make it down to the Ricoh coliseum in time for the 3 o’clock game,” says Dawe.
It was already nearly 1 p.m. when he hung up the phone.
“I quickly grabbed my waiter and said, ‘Sorry, you’re going to have to cancel my order. I have to go,’” Dawe says.
“I ran across the street to the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC), packed my equipment, headed to my apartment to grab my car, got changed into a suit, then made my way down to the Ricoh Coliseum.”
Even after the short notice and the late road trip back from Windsor the night before, Dawe made it to the rink with 45 minutes to spare.
“I met the coaching staff, training staff and doctors. I met the guys and then proceeded to get dressed for on ice warm-ups. It wasn’t until halfway through warm-ups that I was able to realize what had actually happened and the opportunity I had just been given,” Dawe said.
Dawe never thought getting called up to the AHL would happen this late in his career. The 21-year-old completed his final year of junior hockey with the St. Catharines Falcons of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League last year. In the 2012-2013 season, he was signed by the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League and played 13 games.
He says the opportunity to be ready on the bench in the AHL was surreal. During the game, he was filled with mixed emotions, with the possibility of playing in the game right in front of him.
Nothing went wrong during the game, which meant the Ryerson netminder didn’t get to showcase his talent in front of the crowd at Ricoh Coliseum. The Toronto Marlies won the game 5-1.
Even though Dawe didn’t get to be between the pipes during the game, he says he opened a window of opportunities for himself.
By being available last minute and for putting on a good performance in pre-game warm-ups, the Marlies staff said they would certainly give Dawe a call if they ever needed a goalie to toss on a blue and white jersey again.
This story also appeared in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on Feb 25, 2015.