Boise's Colorful Emergency Backup, Doug Melvin, Ready to Step In at a Moment's Notice

(Credit: Nate McIntyre Photography)
Continuing ECHL Week here on 100 Degree Hockey, this is a great profile I got together on the Steelheads' local emergency backup goalie, Doug Melvin.

If you met Doug Melvin in the street, you would never guess at his role with the Idaho Steelheads. With a head of silver hair and a physique a la Jack Lalanne, Melvin is the 50-something emergency backup goalie for the Steelheads.

"We only have a certain number of goalies under contract," said Melvin after an arduous morning skate. "It’s inevitable that goalies are called up. Even in the role I play, you have to come every day to play."

In every city with a team, the local club is required to have someone on record as the EBUG, available for the home or visiting team in case of a late callup or injury before game time. The role got a big showcase recently when the Carolina Hurricanes put their backup, also their equipment manager, into the last seven seconds of a game a few weeks ago. In the ECHL, there isn't anywhere to call from when those callups happen, so the role of an EBUG is much more visible. Melvin has signed dozens and dozens of contracts with the Steelheads over the seven years that he has been the EBUG for Boise.

The emergency backup goalie or EBUG role is an intriguing one for hockey fans and especially players everywhere. It's the chance for a regular guy, one of us beer leaguers, to get into a professional game. Fair warning though, Doug Melvin is not your average beer leaguer.

When asked about his history in hockey, Melvin starts out, "I’m only 25 so...," before a bit of a laugh and a pivot, "I played in the ECHL, the AHL and went to some NHL training camps. I got into a few NHL exhibition games."

Melvin's pro hockey history started in 1979 in camp with the Philadelphia Flyers. Over the next few years, he would get into camp with the Boston Bruins from 1981-83, but never rose higher than a few games in the ECHL. After those years, he headed to college, graduated, and became an Army officer. He has held a variety of security roles in the US military and government, including director of security at the White House, DHS country director for Iraq, and director of the TSA for the state of Idaho. He now owns his own private security consulting company with a focus on alternative energy solutions.

The flexibility Melvin gets from owning his own business comes in handy with the EBUG role. There is often an emphasis on that emergency part.

(Credit: Steve Conner)
"If something happens, I have to be ready to go. I come with the mindset that I’m playing. Sometimes I get the call at 9 in the morning. Sometimes at 3 in the afternoon. You have to be ready to go. I try to stay in shape and prepare, waiting for that kind of call."

The EBUG cannot enter the game unless there is an injury to the starting goalie preventing them from playing. A big part of what Doug provides for the team is his commitment in practice.

"I love it. I would do this all day. For practices, I would stay out there all day. Work your butt off and leave everything out there."

At Saturday's morning skate with starter Philippe Desrosiers already off the ice, Melvin was working on drills with assistant coach Everett Sheen and the defense. Melvin dropped down to his knees to block the lower net, the defenseman work to pick a corner on a one-timer, and then Melvin reset to his feet. Repeatedly for five or seven minutes.

"I take it seriously. The last thing I want to do is let these guys down, let the coaching staff down. These guys deserve somebody that takes it seriously, who tries to contribute on and off the ice. You find a way to contribute, and that’s part of being on the team."

Texas Stars head coach Derek Laxdal was the one to recruit Melvin to the Steelheads when he coached there. He remembers his passion for the game in practice even now, "He’s a guy who loves the game and has passion for the game. You bring him on the ice. You’re coming down the wall and he comes out to challenge you about 20 feet, pads stacked together and all you have to do is change the angle by an inch to score, but he had fun with it. I called him The Challenger."

That seriousness and commitment gets a bit of a challenge when the visiting team is the one that needs a backup, "That’s the hard thing. I have a loyalty here. When another team asks me to be the EBUG and then they sign me to stay on, it’s really hard. I have to be professional and help these guys, but it’s painful because I don’t want that to happen. I just have to go do my job."

He added, "Some teams I like helping less than others, I’ll put it that way."

If the call ever does come for Melvin to skate onto the ice in a real game, he is absolutely ready for that moment.

"When you get the call, the mindset is, 'I'm not going to be the reason we lose. I’m going to be the reason we win.' I don’t want to see anyone get hurt, but if I have to play, I owe it to the other 18 guys on the team to go out there and play my heart out."

Tomorrow we'll finish off the week taking a bit about the dollars and cents of the ECHL with Steelheads president Eric Trapp.