WHEN THE opportunity of a lifetime knocked, Jorge Alves was already walking away. Less than eight seconds remained in the Hurricanes' 3--1 loss to Tampa Bay on New Year's Eve, so Alves, 37, left the visiting bench to start his postgame duties as Carolina's equipment manager. He was halfway down the tunnel when coach Bill Peters called him back. Having also dressed that night as the team's emergency backup goalie, Alves was about to create one of the last great sports moments of 2016 by entering an NHL game.
It was a moment made possible only because Canes backup Eddie Lack fell ill the afternoon before the 7 p.m. EST start in Tampa and none of the team's minor league affiliates were close enough to provide a reinforcement in time. So Alves hastily signed a contract on a smartphone (salary: $500 and the game-worn jersey), gave a pregame speech thanking his new teammates and led them out for warmups, wearing number 40 and a mask he had painted himself.
Alves owes his chance in part to a rule that went into effect during the 1965 playoffs that mandated that teams dress reserve goalies. While a retired goalie turned assistant coach will occasionally don pads and sit on the bench, such pinch-hitters are almost never called upon to take the ice.
None who did had a journey quite like Alves's. The son of Portuguese immigrants, he spent four years in the Marines before playing club hockey at N.C. State. He joined the Hurricanes' equipment staff as a part-timer in 2003--04 and went on to play for five minor league teams. Alves became a beloved full-time staffer for Carolina in '12--13 who also practices regularly with the team. With starter Cam Ward in his usual place between the posts on Saturday, Alves dashed back to the dressing room to sharpen skates and retape sticks. After the game, as Hurricanes players boarded the bus to the airport, Alves—who didn't face any shots—was already headed there in the equipment truck, to begin loading the plane.
His 7.6 seconds of fame weren't entirely over, either. With Lack still sick, Alves dressed for practice on Jan. 2. Afterward, he told reporters of his cameo, "Everybody dreams about it. I [was] always thinking about it: What would I do? How would I react? And then, when it did happen, I went blank."
As Alves spoke, a team trainer waited to serve him Gatorade and snacks. They do that for players in the NHL.