In the heart of Buckeye Nation, even the mention of Michigan stirs emotions in fans that may not be suitable for print in this blog. Needless to say, my interest peaked when I saw Twitter feeds stating former University of Michigan goalie, Shawn Hunwick, had been signed to an Amateur Try-Out contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The way the story unfolded is almost too difficult to believe. In the morning skate prior to the Blue Jackets home game on March 28, starting goalie Steve Mason was injured after taking a puck to the mask. The Jackets regular backup goalie, Curtis Sanford, is on injured reserve. This left the CBJ with a decision to make: enter the game against Detroit with one active goalie or acquire a backup goalie on emergency basis.
The Jackets opted for the latter, and that is where the story of Shawn Hunwick’s whirlwind day began. Asleep in his campus apartment, Hunwick got a call from the UM ice hockey equipment manager asking him to get down to the rink. A bit confused, Hunwick made the trek to the rink where he was informed that he was headed to Columbus. Although it was a tough decision (perhaps Hunwick did not know the Jackets were playing his boyhood idols, the Detroit Redwings), he decided to skip his afternoon Astronomy 101 class and head down I-75 South with his gear in the back of his 2003 Ford Ranger truck.
Hunwick and his Wolverine teammates had just finished their season on March 23, or a more accurate way to describe it would be that Michigan had their season ended in sudden death overtime by Colgate in a 3-2 loss during the NCAA tournament. A heartbreaking way to end a season but even more difficult when it is your final collegiate game. For a story of how Hunwick reacted to the loss, click here.
Despite his own concerns and those of his friends, Hunwick’s truck and gear arrived at Nationwide Arena in time for the pregame warm-up and the 7:05PM faceoff. TSN Hockey analyst Bob MacKenzie tweeted Hunwick had driven to his 1st NHL game in his truck. The tweet was posted on the Nationwide Arena Jumbotron and Hunwick was seen reading and smiling.
The Jackets had just lost an embarrassing game at Joe Louis Arena two night before 7-2, and there was concern that the game in Columbus had the potential to be equally brutal. NBCSports Network had this game as their national broadcast, so the hockey world was able to tune in and see the mayhem. There was a distinct possibility that starting goalie Allen York would be pulled from the game if the Red Wings scored 4 goals in the opening 10 minutes of period 1 as they had in Detroit. Much to the surprise of all in attendance, myself included, the Blue Jackets played inspired hockey. York played well in the net and the home team skated to a 4-2 victory. Seated on the end of the bench, wearing his University of Michigan leg pads and helmet, Hunwick soaked it all in.
From college walk-on to starting goaltender to NHL tryout, the Shawn Hunwick’s story continues to impress.