When Wild goalie coach Bob Mason's number popped up on Paul Deutsch's cell phone the day before Thanksgiving last fall, he thought nothing of it.
"Mase called me from time to time to come down and take a few shots during practice," said Deutsch, who owns a screen printing and embroidery store. "So it wasn't a big surprise."
Turns out, what Mason was about to ask was a stunner.
Slated starting goalie Niklas Backstrom was suddenly unavailable for that night's game against Nashville. With backup Josh Harding getting the nod in net, third goaltender Matt Hackett was called up from AHL Houston. Problem was, his flight wasn't scheduled to land until just before game time.
The Wild needed an emergency backup. And fast.
The 51-year-old Deutsch -- who last appeared on an actual roster more than 30 years ago as a defenseman on Minneapolis Roosevelt's JV team -- was the man for the job.
"Before I knew it I was faxing a contract to [director of hockey administration] Shep Harder and the team is like, 'Get down here!" Deutsch said.
Deutsch raced to his Apple Valley home to grab his equipment and battled afternoon traffic to arrive at Xcel Energy Center by 4 p.m.
"The [players'] valet guy takes my keys and I'm like, 'whoa, whoa, whoa. My gear's still in the back,'" Deutsch said.
After signing more official documents with General Manager Chuck Fletcher, Deutsch got a few more doses of reality.
"They tell me there's going to be a pregame press conference and I asked if I could sit in on it; I thought that would be cool to see," he said. "[Media relations manager] Aaron Sickman says to me, 'Do you realize what's going on?' I said, 'Well I'm not playing.' And he said, 'We don't know that yet.' That's when it got real."
Deutsch met the media, then got ready for his big moment.
"It was follow the leader," Deutsch said. "When Harding sat down, I sat down. When he put on his socks, I put on my socks."
When the team took the ice for warmups, Deutsch found he was deer in headlights under the spotlight.
"I stood in there and let the pucks bounce off me," he said.
Hackett arrived in time to sit on the bench for the game. Deutsch watched from a suite.
"And then I read about this knucklehead who got released," he said.