Players work years for the opportunity to play professional hockey. For Jason Shaya, it came easily and abruptly.
Shaya, the voice of the Charlotte Checkers and Director of Broadcasting, was asked to fill in as emergency backup goalie for the Checkers on Sunday against the Providence Bruins after starting goalie Alex Nedeljkovic fell ill. Although he didn’t get the starting nod, Shaya was able to take warm-ups and sit behind the bench. He even received a few jabs at his expense from the team’s social media account.
8 minutes are gone in the first and the Checkers' goaltending has been great. Both Smith on the ice making saves and Shaya on the bench giving out encouragement— Charlotte Checkers (@CheckersHockey) November 26, 2017
Shaya has broadcasted professional hockey for 13 years and has been a fill-in practice goalie occasionally. He’s also backed up teams in the United Hockey League and ECHL. This game was his first at the AHL level, earning himself an Elite Prospects page in the process.
“I will say the support and enthusiasm from Checkers staff and fans alike was incredible,” says Shaya, who has been with the team since 2007. Shaya also says Checkers head coach Mike Vellucci was “terrific” as well.
With Shaya missing from the broadcasters booth, VP of Hockey Operations Derek Wilkinson and Jamie Black, who handles financial aspects of the team, stepped in to fill Shaya’s shoes. Wilkinson received a call from Vellucci around 10 a.m. Sunday morning informing him that Nedeljkovic was sick. With three hours until game time, it was impossible to make a call to the Florida Everblades and get a goalie up in time. So Shaya and Wilkinson made a quick decision which Wilkinson referred to as “a rock, paper, scissors” decision and Shaya got the nod.
With Shaya suiting up for game time, Chief Operating Officer Tera Black joked that Wilkinson and Black should call the game. With final approval from owner Michael Kahn, the guys were able to hop on the mic. “For us, the call went fine. Hopefully the fans got a laugh, too. It was really neat getting the perspective of what a play by play guy goes through. It is a real art and makes me appreciate them even more,” says Wilkinson. Despite calling Providence the “Boston Bruins” a few times, Wilkinson thinks it went well. “Jamie (Black) was great. He had a long playing and coaching career so his insights are easy to understand. He and I have known each other for years so we just took the approach of two guys watching a game at a local establishment, minus the cold pops.”
With none of their contracts extended as backup or broadcaster, business will return to normal for Shaya, Black and Wilkinson. The Checkers take on the Springfield Thunderbirds on this Friday and Sunday.