The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Thursday, March 29, 2011 - 7A
Hunwick makes unexpected Columbus sojourn
By ZACH HELFAND
Daily Sports Editor
COLUMBUS - A 2003 Ford
Ranger pulled into the play-
ers' parking lot on Wednesday
at Nationwide Arena in Colum-
bus, Ohio. Assorted hockey gear,
two small goalie leg pads and a
winged helmet sat in the bed of
the pickup truck.
The' newest member of the
Columbus Blue Jackets opened
the window to speak to the lot
attendant. Shawn Hunwick told
the attendant that he was here to
be the back-up goalie.
"I don't think he really
believed me," Hunwick said.
"But then he radioed up to some-
body, and they said I was good."
Hunwick got out of the pickup,
went into the arena and signed
some papers that officially put
the 5-foot-6 goalie on the roster
of an NHL team. Then he got
back into the Ranger and drove
off to his hotel.
If you listen to junior defense-
man Lee Moffie, it was a miracle
the clunker - too small to be a
considered a real pickup truck
and older than most, too - ever.
made it into the parking lot in
"I wouldn't get too excited
about (Hunwick) dressing in
Columbus tonight," Moffie
posted on his Twitter account
Wednesday, before exaggerating
for effect. "The chances of his '86
Ranger making it there are slim
Slim collided with none on
Wednesday morning, and slim
won. That collision coincided
with a more literal collision -
that of a puck and Columbus
goaltender Steve Mason's face-
Mason, who was supposed to
be the starter later that evening
against the Detroit Red Wings,
was ruled out after suffering a
minor head injury.
With goaltender Curtis San-
ford already injured, Columbus
needed abackup goalie. And fast.
They called Michigan coach
"(They) told us that one of
their goalies got hurt this morn-
ing," Berenson said. "They asked
if Hunwick was available."
Former Michigan netminder Shawn Hunwick blocks a shot in pregz
Jackets needed a goaltender, and
they wanted Hunwick.
The 24-year old netminder
didn't know what to think. He
looked to Berenson.
"He gave me that grin that he
does, and said, 'Just have fun,
soak it in,' " Hunwick said.
But Hunwick wasn't con-
vinced. During the season, Hun-
wick said one NHL team had
been following him throughout
the year. Now, though, he con-
cedes that that might have been a
lie he used "to pick up some girls
So Hunwick was skeptical.
"I checked to see if it was April
1st," he said. "I don't know, I
thought everybody was messing
JAY LEPRETE/AP around with me."
arne warmups. But moments later, Hunwick
was on the phone again, this time
soon as pos- with Blue Jackets General Man-
an told him. ager Scott Howson.
wed instruc- The call lasted one minute.
at he must Howson told him that he wanted
g wrong the to sign him to an unpaid amateur
at word had tryout contract, which, by rule,
would last only one day.
got to the Howson told him that he just
tim: the Blue wanted him to do what he did in
college. And he told him that he
had to make it down to Columbus
by 5 p.m. or else he wouldn't play.
So Hunwick hustled. He called
his father first, then his brother,
Matt, who laughed at the whole
Last, he called former team-
mate Kevin Porter, and then he
threw all of his equipment into
the back of the Ford Ranger and
drove off for Columbus.
Two miles later, the Ford
Ranger turned back around.
Hunwick had forgotten his wal-
let and his shoes.
When he finally made it onto
I-75 South, his phone buzzed so
frequently that it died halfway
through the trip. So for the next
90 minutes, Hunwick was on an
island, alone with his thoughts in
that old, small Ford Ranger.
At 4 p.m., Shawn Hunwick
pulled into the parking lot at
Nationwide Arena. With a skep-
tical look and orders from his
walkie-talkie, the attendant
opened the gate, and the player,
who again was in the right place
at -the right time, entered the
National Hockey League.
Berenson had assistant coach
Brian Wiseman call Hunwick.
Hunwick, who had decided to
sleep in on Wednesday morning,
was still in bed.
"I wasn't at the (Brown) Jug
yet," Hunwick said later. "A cou-
ple more hours, and I might've
"Get to the rink as
sible," was all Wisem
So Hunwick follor
tions, assuming th
have done somethin
night before and the
rink, Wiseman told h
. Ex-Wolverine Johnson provides calming presence for Hunwick
By MATT SLOVIN
Daily Sports Editor
COLUMBUS - Wednesday
night, the first night of Shawn
Hunwick's NHL career, pitted
the familiar against the unfamil-
During pregame warmups,
Hunwick glanced across the
ice and saw the team he grew
up admiring - the Detroit Red
Wings. He'd dreamt of this
moment many times, admittedly
picturing himself donning the
red-and-white winged wheel.
"Guys like (Red Wings cap-
tain) Nick Lidstrom and (Red
Wings forward) Tomas Holm-
strom have been there since I
was, like,-10 years old," Hunwick
said. "It was pretty cool to see
them out there and get a feel for
the big leagues."
Columbus, the location of his
first NHL game, seemed every
bit as unfamiliar, and even some-
what hostile, to Hunwick, just
days removed from his last game
as the goaltender of the Michigan
hockey team. A Michigan-raised
kid trapped in Buckeye territory,
Hunwick had no idea how he'd be
received by the Blue Jackets fans.
So it came as a complete relief
when, after the long drive down
from Ann Arbor, one of the first
people he saw made him feel
right at home. That someone
was former Wolverine defense-
man Jack Johnson. While the
pair never played together at
Michigan, Johnson's stay in Ann
Arbor overlapped with Shawn's
older brother and current mem-
ber of the Colorado Avalanche,
Matt. Once the younger Hunwick
put pen to paper upon arrival in
Columbus, it was his turn to call
Johnson a teammate.
"It was obviously nice to know
a familiar face," Hunwick said.
"(He's) somebody I've known
fore a long time and am really
close with. It was nice to see
someone that can ease the pro-
cess for youa little bit."
Because he arrived on such
short notice, Hunwick needed
to supply most of his own equip-
ment to suit up. And if the maize
and blue winged helmet seemed
slightly out of place amongst the
blue and red of the Blue Jackets'
uniforms, at least one of his
teammates paid no mind.
"(Johnson) kept bringing up
how he wanted to see the maize
"It was cool
shots from guys
and blue helmet on the ice here in
Columbus," Hunwick said. "He
was joking around that he was
going to take a twirl in it."
When Johnson heard the
news that Hunwick was the
that the Blue Jackets had
acquired following an injury to
usual starter Steve Mason, he
was almost as excited for the
reunion as Hunwick was to be
dressing for the game.
"I thought it was great,"
Johnson said. "They said 'Hey,
we're trying to get a hold of
your boy Shawn Hunwick.'
"It couldn't happen to a bet-
ter kid. He deserves it, and I
was as happy as I could possibly
be to see him sitting on an NHL
Though the NHL call came
significantly sooner than Hun-
wick had anticipated, he didn't
seem out of place or anxious
while playing under an amateur
tryout contract. And his game
plan was simple.
"Don't fall," Hunwick joked.
Hunwick didn't get to see the
ice during the Blue Jackets' 4-2
win, but he's still thrilled that he
even got the chance.
"I've never played down here
with Michigan at all, but it was
a pretty cool experience," Hun-
wick said. "It was cool taking
some shots from guys like (Blue
Jackets forward) Rick Nash."
As for what's next, Hunwick's
ready for whatever comes his
way - even if it's a return ticket
to Ann Arbor.
"z probably won't be back, but
you never know," he said after the
Columbus interim coach Todd
Richards didn't get much time
to talk to his new backup goalie,
simply asking Hunwick how the
drive up went. Richards seemed
optimistic, however, that there
would be more chances to get
to know Hunwick in the near
"I'll get another opportunity
to talk with him more at length
later," Richards said.
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