Eric Semborski had not played competitive hockey in more than a year. The former Temple goaltender skates in the morning with coworkers and coaches youth hockey in the afternoon.
So it was understandable that his father needed to be told three times on Saturday morning before finally believing that his son was going to be the Chicago Blackhawks backup goaltender against the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Blackhawks signed Semborski for Saturday's game after starting goaltender Corey Crawford underwent an appendectomy. Semborski matched his red Blackhawks jersey with cherry-and-white Temple pads and goalie helmet inscribed with "Philly Proud. Temple Tuff." He graduated from Temple in 2015 and works at the Skate Zone in Voorhees and as a youth instructor for Snider Hockey in Kensington.
"It's surreal," Semborski said. "I can't explain it. It's a dream come true. It was so cool."
Semborski, 23, was approached by a Flyers employee on Saturday morning after he wrapped up a coaching clinic at the Skate Zone. He wanted to know about Semborski's playing experience because the Blackhawks needed a goalie. Semborski could not believe it. He knew it was real when his phone rang and the caller ID said "Chicago."
"I had to take my skates off from coaching and come here as fast as I could," Semborski said. "I still couldn't believe it was happening when I was coming in."
Semborski, who is from Bloomsburg, sped to his house in Manayunk and grabbed his equipment. He ran into traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway - "of course," Semborski said - and arrived at the arena in time to join the Blackhawks on the ice for warm-ups. Scott Darling, Chicago's starting goalie Saturday, hopped out of net and in skated Semborski as Patrick Kane and the rest of the Blackhawks fired away.
"I was a bit rusty and no matter how much I play, I'm never going to be ready for them," Semborski said. "It was fast, and I couldn't even catch my breath because I was trying to take it all in. The warm-ups were the best 20 minutes of my life."
Semborski spent the entire game on the bench. He would have been inserted in the final minute if the Flyers had scored an empty-net goal. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville joked that he almost sent in Semborski after the Flyers scored three times in the second period.
"That would've been a mistake," Semborski said.
Semborski was unsure how much he would be paid. His contract was technically an "amateur tryout agreement." A Flyers official guessed that Semborski would receive a per diem check. The goalie said he would be happy with just the Blackhawks hat, jersey, and pucks he corralled as souvenirs.
"I should be paying them," he said. "I don't know how it happened. I have to get to the bottom of it and thank some people. It was awesome."