He packed his gear and headed to Staples Center, just like he does for every Kings home game.
Then Steve Jakiel’s phone rang, and his adrenaline jumped up a notch or nine. The call was from Jeff Solomon, the Kings vice president of hockey operations.
“He told me just to make sure that I was ready, because [Jonathan] Quick wasn’t feeling great,” Jakiel said in an interview with Fox Sports West.
Jakiel, 32, is a former college goalie from Santa Clarita who serves as the Kings’ emergency backup goalie. He is required to be available in situations such as Saturday, when Quick fell sick before a game against the Boston Bruins and was sent home at the start of the second period. A recall of Cal Petersen or Peter Budaj wasn’t an option because the Ontario Reign were about to play a game in Bakersfield.
Enter Jakiel to back up Jack Campbell.
A finance manager during the day, Jakiel last played in a game of significant level nine years ago, for Curry College, a Division III school in Milton, Mass. He previously played one season at Michigan and in the United States Hockey League, and the emergency, surreal situation revived his competitive spirit from those days and made him comfortable ready, if it came down to it.
“It was exciting,” Jakiel said. “It kind of felt like I was back into it for a while and just getting to see [general manager] Rob Blake come in and say, ‘Hey, make sure you’re ready,’ it’s pretty cool.”
Jakiel warmed up on the stationary bike and watched the game from the NBA visitor’s room at Staples Center, knowing that he was one play away from playing in an NHL game, had Campbell gotten hurt.
Jakiel could have become another chapter in a long list of Walter Mitty-esque emergency goalie stories. Last season, Scott Foster, an accountant, became famous in the hockey world when he was inserted late into game for the Chicago Blackhawks and stopped all seven shots to preserve a win against the Winnipeg Jets.
Jakiel didn’t get into a game, but the experience was written with the beaming smile on his face afterward.
Said Jakiel, “It ended up being a pretty memorable night.”
It was a foregone conclusion, but Saturday might as well have marked the unofficial look toward next season and beyond.
Matt Roy was the seventh Kings player to make his NHL debut this season, behind Austin Wagner, Matt Luff, Sean Walker, Sheldon Rempal, Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Cal Petersen.
It’s conceivable that the final weeks of the season could see other Reign players, such as Carl Grundstrom and Kale Clague, up with the Kings as their focus turns to the evaluation and reshaping of the roster.
But the interim period is difficult to accept. Saturday was the Kings’ 29th regulation loss, as many as they took last season. Wagner wouldn’t broach the notion that this is a learning process for young players like him.
“We look in here, you see two Cups on the wall, you see three conference championships, you see all the prestigious players that have played here,” Wagner said. “You ask any young guy, any player in this room … they want to win a Cup. They want to help this team succeed and become an L.A. King, and that’s what L.A Kings are, we’re winners. We’ve just got to get back to that.”
Up next: vs. Washington
When: Monday, 7:30 p.m.
On the air: TV: FSW; Radio: iHeartRadio (LA Kings Audio Network)
Update: The Kings were off Sunday and there was no update on Quick. Washington will try to snap an eight-game losing streak at Staples Center, which dates to its last win here in 2005. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored twice and Alex Ovechkin scored his first goal in six games against the Kings a week ago at Capital One Arena.