Sharks sign college goalie to amateur tryout

Jordan White was putting on his goaltending equipment for an afternoon practice with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds when he was called into the coach's office.

Nervous at first about being summoned at such an unusual time, he quickly figured something unusual was going on when he saw goalie coach Jeff Battah's face. But even that couldn't prepare him for the news: White was going to the NHL.

After losing goalie Antero Niittymaki to a groin injury during the morning skate and placing him on injured reserve, the San Jose Sharks needed a backup Thursday night against the Canucks. Unable to get one of their minor league goalies to Vancouver in time, the Sharks signed White to a one-day amateur tryout.

"Jeff had a little smirk on his face, so something seemed odd and then they told me and I was kind of overwhelmed with excitement," White told The Associated Press as he waited to board the team bus to the game. "It was surreal."

White went through the pregame warmup, then took a seat on the bench as Antti Niemi backstopped the Sharks to a 2-1 shootout victory.

"Just meeting the guys. These are guys you see on TV, you have in your fantasy hockey teams or guys you cheer for, so it's nice to see how they prepare and practice their trade," White said. "I get to keep my jersey and the hat. I don't really need too much, this is something I will remember forever.

"The whole day overall had a lot of moments that exceeded what I thought it would be. The first call in the afternoon and coming here and seeing how welcoming all the guys are, and just being able to go out there and lace 'em up and see the energy in this building and just be on the ice is something I rally cherished."

In the first period, Niemi ended up under a pile with Vancouver's Alex Burrows on top of him.

"I wasn't too worried," White said. "He bounced back right away."

White, a 22-year-old in his second season with UBC in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport league, had read about Phoenix signing former college goalie Tom Fenton to back up against the Rangers after Ilya Bryzgalov got sick this season. He also recalled Washington using website worker Brett Leonhardt, another former college goalie, to fill in for warmups and the first period two years ago when Jose Theodore hurt his hip and Semyon Varlamov couldn't get to the rink in time.

As a longtime Canucks fan, though, White mostly remembered Dec. 9, 2003, when Vancouver signed UBC third-string goalie Chris Levesque under similar circumstances.

Levesque, who almost missed his chance because he was studying in a library and no one could find him, nearly got into the game after starter Johan Hedberg was injured in a collision. With Hedberg lying in a motionless heap, television camera's quickly found Levesque on the bench, chewing his gum so hard and fast it looked like he too might soon require medical attention.

"I totally remember seeing Hedberg on the ice and him being so nervous he might have to go in," White said.

White certainly didn't let the opportunity to be an NHL goalie for a day throw his routine off. He finished dressing after getting the news and went out for practice, taking a break from taking shots to sign the paperwork when it was ready.

"It's nervous excitement, but not like a negative nervousness," White said.

Unlike Levesque, who rarely played, White has started all 18 games for UBC and is 7-7-4 with a 3.51 goals-against average and .876 save percentage. He should also be more comfortable because he played junior hockey with Sharks forward Devon Setoguchi. But that doesn't mean White wasn't still in awe a bit.

"A lot of these players are just guys I've seen playing for Team Canada or on TV before," White said. "So it's going to be an amazing, positive experience just to meet them and watch them go through their trade for the day."

A native of the nearby suburb of White Rock, White's mom and dad were at the game, and he expected a lot of friends to make the short trip. But if the messages on a full voicemail are any indication, they weren't cheering for the Sharks.

"They're all Canucks fans so it's 'Good luck, have fun, but I hope you guys lose,'" White said. "So it's been comical."

And just a little surreal, too.