March 23 started as an ordinary day for Dinos goaltender Nathan Deobald. He got up early to go to work and then headed off to attend class at the University of Calgary, where he is a drama student. As class started, he politely turned the ringer off his cell phone and tucked it away in his bag. While sitting in class, Deobald had no idea that his phone was being bombarded with texts and voice mails from his U of C coaches who were desperately trying to get a hold of him. As he left class, his day took a drastic turn from ordinary to unbelievable in a matter of seconds.
The Edmonton Oilers were in need of an emergency call-up for their evening game against the Vancouver Canucks, and Deobald was their man.
"I phoned [the coaches] back, and I wasn't sure at first if they were putting me on or not," Deobald said.
Once he spoke to the Oilers' front office, Deobald had little time to let everything soak in, as he was in a race against the clock to catch his flight to Edmonton.
"I didn't have that much time," he said. "I had to race home to get my suit on, and race back to fly out."
When he landed, the Oilers had a driver pick him up from the airport, and he was driven directly to Rexall Place.
"It was kind of surreal," said Deobald. "In a couple hour span I went from sitting in class to walking through the Edmonton Oilers dressing room where Gretzky and Messier used to be."
Any nerves Deobald may have had were eased by many of the young Edmonton Oilers, who joked around with him in warm-up and made him feel as if he was a part of the team.
"They were great guys. They were really personable and friendly," said Deobald. "Two of the younger guys [Theo] Peckham and [Ryan] Jones were a lot of fun. Mike Comrie and [Jason] Strudwick were pretty cool as well."
What makes this story even more unlikely is that Deobald's name was far from the top of the Oilers list of potential call-ups. The University of Alberta hockey team was on its way to the CIS national championship in Thunder Bay, Ontario, meaning both their goalies were unavailable.
Edmonton Oil Kings starting goalie Torrie Jung sat on the bench for the Oilers earlier in the season when Nikolai Khabibulin went down with an injury, but he was out of town as well.
It turns out Deobald's first start in two years also served as an audition for the Oilers. With Dustin Butler injured and Jeff Weber serving a suspension, the Dinos called upon Deobald to start his first game in two years at the University of Alberta for the first round of the Canada West playoffs. Someone in Edmonton took note of his strong play, and his name was thrown on the list of potential call-ups for the Oilers.
Many kids dream of getting the opportunity to play in the NHL. Though Nathan Deobald gave up on that dream years ago, his short lived experience with the Edmonton Oilers is one that he will never forget.