NHL Emergency Backup Goalie Salary and Rules

In the world of NHL, the heroes aren’t always the ones with the blazing slapshots or flashy dangles. Sometimes, they are the silent saviors, the Emergency Backup Goalies (EBUGs), who swoop in to save the day when destiny takes an unexpected turn.

Let’s dive into the fascinating world of these unsung heroes, explore their compensation, and understand the rules that govern their crucial role in the game.

NHL Emergency Backup Goalie Salary

When it comes to compensation, EBUGs receive a modest $500 per game. While this might seem like a mere pittance compared to the hefty paychecks of their NHL counterparts, it’s a vital lifeline for those who dream of stepping onto the grand stage of professional hockey.

Two names stand out in the EBUG Hall of fame – David Ayres and Thomas Hodges. These individuals etched their names in NHL history with their remarkable performances as emergency goalies. Their stories serve as a testament to the importance of EBUGs in the league.

The Role of EBUGs

EBUGs are summoned to the ice rink when the regular goaltenders are unable to play due to injuries, suspensions, or any other reason that renders them incapable of guarding the net. While they don’t make regular appearances, their presence is invaluable in ensuring the continuity of a match.

To fill this emergency need, teams have several options. They can call up goaltenders from their minor league affiliates and farm teams or rely on available eligible goaltenders. The flexibility in selecting EBUGs allows teams to adapt swiftly to unforeseen circumstances.

What Defines an NHL Emergency Goalie?

An NHL emergency goalie is a backup netminder tasked with stepping in if both of a team’s regular goaltenders are unable to continue a game. This exclusive privilege extends only to the goaltenders, as no other skater is allowed to don the goalie equipment under ordinary circumstances.

Historically, the NHL teams used to have just one goaltender on their roster until the mid-1960s. However, as the league evolved, the mandate for teams to dress two goaltenders during a match became standard practice. Yet, even two goalies can’t cover all eventualities, leading to the emergence of EBUGs.

NHL Emergency Goalie Contract and Compensation

While there is no formal provision for paying EBUGs a salary, they do receive $500 for each game they participate in. This modest compensation is collectively determined by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA).

The disparity between this compensation and the earnings of regular NHL players, who make a minimum of $750,000 per year, is evident. However, EBUGs do have the option to sign amateur tryout agreements, forgoing payment for their on-ice heroics.

It’s worth noting that EBUGs do not enter into full contracts with NHL franchises. Instead, they have the opportunity to earn their spot on the team’s roster through exceptional performance.

NHL Rules Governing Backup Goalies

The NHL has strict rules in place to ensure the integrity of the game when it comes to backup goalies. Rule 5.3 of the NHL Rulebook mandates that each team must have a substitute goalkeeper fully equipped and ready to play on the bench or nearby.

Furthermore, no skater on the playing roster is allowed to assume the role of a goaltender unless both listed goaltenders are incapacitated. This ensures that EBUGs are the only viable option when the need arises.

In cases where both regular goaltenders are unable to play, the backup goalkeeper is provided adequate time to dress up, and the third goalie is entitled to a 2-minute warm-up. However, this warm-up period is waived if the EBUG enters the game to defend against a penalty shot or if they are already dressed and seated on the bench when the second goaltender becomes incapacitated.

NHL Emergency Goalie List

Here is a list of some notable NHL emergency goaltenders who have stepped up when their teams needed them the most:

Emergency GoalieTeam Played for
Connor BeaupreMinnesota Wild
Dustin SmithNashville Predators
Justin GoldmanColorado Avalanche
Thomas HodgesAnaheim Ducks
David AyresCarolina Hurricanes
Scott FosterChicago Blackhawks
Jorge AlvesCarolina Hurricanes
Kyle KoninTampa Bay Lightning
Matt BerlinEdmonton Oilers

Extraordinary Feats of EBUGs

David Ayres made headlines as an EBUG for the Carolina Hurricanes during a match against the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 22, 2020. With both listed goaltenders injured, Ayres entered the game in the second period. Despite facing adversity, he helped secure a 6-3 victory for the Hurricanes and holds the record as the oldest goaltender to win an NHL regular-season debut.

Scott Foster’s heroic moment came in 2018 when he became an EBUG for the Chicago Blackhawks during a game against the Winnipeg Jets. He saved all seven shots he faced, contributing to a 6-2 victory for his team.

Jorge Alves had a brief but memorable stint as an EBUG for the Carolina Hurricanes in 2016. He took the ice for the final 7.6 seconds of a game, showcasing the unique nature of EBUG contributions.

Thomas Hodges, representing the Anaheim Ducks in 2022, stepped up when both regular goaltenders were injured during a game against the Dallas Stars. Although the Ducks didn’t secure a win, Hodges earned the respect and admiration of fans and players for his remarkable performance.


In the NHL, Emergency Backup Goalies (EBUGs) symbolize resilience and adaptability. Despite modest $500 per game compensation, they’re pivotal when regular goaltenders can’t play. From David Ayres’ historic win to Scott Foster’s stellar saves, EBUGs redefine heroism in hockey. Their dedication reminds us that in this sport, every player, no matter how unexpected, can become a hero.

Austin Taylor

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