A Blackfalds beer league goaltender can cross trying out for an NHL team off his bucket list.
Darcy Ramstead was one of 58 netminders to take the Florida Panthers up on their offer to try out for a job as backup practice goaltender as part of the Sun Belt team’s Goal of a Lifetime contest.
Ramstead, a 41-year-old Baron Oilfield Supplies salesman, saw it as a “chance of a lifetime.”
Just getting his name drawn was a near miracle. About 1,600 puck stoppers put their names in for the contest. Ramstead was only one of five Canadians trying out.
Reached on his cellphone as he sat in the stands watching the Montreal Canadiens practice ahead of their Tuesday evening game at the Panthers BB&T Center, Ramstead was still buzzing from the experience a day earlier.
“Fast and hard, man” was how he described his baptism of fire through the big league shots from a handful of Panthers regulars and a few alumni.
“It’s just quick.”
The team’s coaches didn’t spare the newbies. “They pushed you through a drill — a crazy drill.
“You get bag-skated for sure,” said Ramstead, who plays for the Baron Knights in the Central Alberta Men’s Hockey League out of Penhold.
The competition included two 90-minute sessions, run by Panthers’ goaltending coach Robb Tallas.
Ramstead took the honour of having travelled the furthest to chase his dream. From Blackfalds to the Florida rink was almost 4,700 km, a feat that got him plenty of media attention in the Sunshine State.
Former Florida Panther and Red Deer native Randy Moller introduced him to the media. He got to enjoy some time in the limelight, with interviews with him appearing on the Florida Panthers website (www.panthers.nhl.com) and on Fox Sports (www.foxsports.com). Ramstead said on Tuesday his legs were still aching from the competition.
Unfortunately, he didn’t make the final cut. Bill Ruggiero, a former pro/semi-pro goaltender from Melbourne, Fla., and Nashville Tennessee’s Dustin Smith, who has experience as a practice goaltender with the NHL’s Nashville Predators, were to compete for the backup job during an intermission in the game between Florida and Montreal.
Ramstead, who lived in Red Deer for many years before moving to Blackfalds last summer, said a couple of friends came with him to Florida to lend support for his quest for NHL glory. His employer was behind him, too.
His experience is already making quite the stir in Central Alberta.
“This is becoming a big deal back home.”
Close to his thoughts is his mother, Irene, who has been battling cancer and is cheering him from afar, as well as his wife Tennille and two-year-old daughter Aliyah. Ramstead plans to return home and to reality on Thursday.