Emergency backup goalies are a celebrated story-of-the-day that happen usually once per season, when a seemingly Average Joe gets to be an NHL player for a game. Who could forget the Washington Capitals web producer who got to be the Caps’ emergency backup in 2008 and again in 2013? Or when Jim Schoenfeld’s son, Nathan, backed up the Arizona Coyotes for a game last season? Most recently, Philadelphia native Eric Semborski was an emergency backup for the Chicago Blackhawks when they played the Flyers in Philly on Saturday. But Semborski got something his predecessors didn’t: he got his own hockey card.
Two, in fact.
In the Topps Skate digital trading card app, Semborski was the subject of two hockey cards, released just four days after he suited up for the ‘Hawks.
“It all came together pretty quickly,” said Mike Salerno, App Producer of Topps Skate. “We saw the situation in Philadelphia unfold over the weekend and thought it would make for a fun and unique card. A few of us [at Topps] were discussing the game in the office on Monday morning and the conversation quickly shifted to what it would take to get a card of Eric in the app. We decided to see if we could make it happen.”
To make that happen, a few hurdles had to be cleared. First, they had to ask Semborski for permision.
“We were hopeful that he’d be interested in having a card made of him,” Salerno said. “Our Director of App Operations, Chris Vaccaro, reached out to him through [Semborski’s] employer, the Flyers Skate Zone. He was very supportive of the idea, and was a pleasure to work with.”
Topps also needed to have a usable image of Semborski. Luckily, they had two. So Salerno decided to create two different cards. After that, they had to get Semborski’s approval.
“He got right back to us,” said Salerno. “He was a big fan of the cards.”
Two days after coming up with the idea, the cards were ready to go. Since these are digital cards, no printing, packing or shipping was needed. On Wednesday, Topps gave away one of the Semborski cards for free via the Skate app. The card shows the former collegiate club hockey goaltender skating in warm ups, decked out in a ‘Hawks uniform and a ball cap — the trademark of backup goalies.
The other card, which was a bit more difficult to get, uses an action photo of Semborski stopping shots during warm ups.
In order to get this card, fans had to buy specially-marked packs of “Topps Now” cards through the Topps Skate app. One in every 15 packs contained this version.
“Since we made two different cards of Eric, we thought it would be fun for our fans to get one on us, and then chase the second in packs if so inclined. Fans are the lifeblood of Skate, and we try to maximize their enjoyment of this app whenever possible with special cards like this.”
As far as trading cards of emergency backup goalies go, Semborski’s card is truly a first. Len Broderick, who was a “standby” goaltender in the 1950s, played one game for the Montreal Canadiens in 1957 and can be seen on three “game action” cards found in the 1957-58 Parkhurst Hockey set. However, none of the cards are really about him, nor do they mention his name. More recently, In The Game made a trading card of Tom Fenton, who was an emergency backup for the Coyotes in 2010, in their 2010-11 Between the Pipes set. But that card showed Fenton with his collegiate team, and not the Coyotes.
Semborski’s card shows him in an NHL uniform, has his name on the front and gives his bio on the back — which makes us wonder if these two cards count as rookie cards?
“They absolutely do,” said Salerno. “The card says ‘Debut’ on it, just like on our card of Auston Matthews. We’d be more than happy to take credit for Semborski’s rookie card.” ■
Do you want a free Eric Semborski card? You can get it between now and January 31, 2017. Download the Topps Skate app (for Android or iOS devices) here. Once you have it installed, head over to the Insert Packs in the Store and click on the “Topps Now – Semborski – Free” pack.