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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CORALVILLE — He definitely looked the part of a professional hockey player.
Ethan Snee walked into the interview room Wednesday night at Xtream Arena nattily clad in a sport coat, dress pants and shoes. That’s the traditional garb on game days, especially for guys playing at home.
But upon closer inspection, you noticed a sweater Snee was wearing underneath his sport coat. It contained a big, old-school Iowa Hawkeyes bird emblem.
The 20-year-old Iowa City High graduate is a sophomore at the university who served as an EBUG for the Iowa Heartlanders in their 3-2 shootout loss to the Wichita Thunder. In pro hockey parlance, EBUG stands for Emergency Backup Goaltender.
“I wasn’t super nervous,” Snee said. “Right before the game, I was a little nervous, but I kind of figured I wasn’t going in. But you never know.”
The Heartlanders were in this predicament because goalie Hunter Jones was called up to the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League on Tuesday. That left Trevin Kozlowski as the lone netminder and the ECHL team scrambling for someone, anyone to serve as his, well, EBUG.
That someone turned out to be Snee. Even though he hadn’t played in a competitive game in almost three years, when he was a part of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.
He has been helping the Hawkeyes women’s club team as an assistant coach/goaltender coach this fall.
“That’s my goalie experience of late,” he said. “Pretty big jump. I haven’t played organized (hockey) since 2019. I guess I played some men’s university (club), but I was kind of just a practice guy there.”
Kozlowski, of course, played the entire game Wednesday night. Snee’s father, Tom, was the member of the family who actually got some real work in, as an off-ice official.
“It was nerve-racking,” said Tom Snee, who works for Iowa’s Tippie College of Business. “When you are a goalie parent, you are the most nervous parent in the building. At least I had something to occupy my time.”
Ethan Snee practiced with the Heartlanders on Wednesday morning.
“That was not the hottest,” he said. “But I think once (pregame) warm-ups came today, I adapted a little bit. It was a pretty hectic 24 hours, you know?”
But a good 24 hours. Snee was asked if he’s going to be paid for his time and trouble.
“I think so,” he said. “I heard it was $50 to $100. The guys were all pretty cool. They introduced themselves. Kozlowski, he was pretty cool. Just a helpful guy around the net. I don’t know, he didn’t ignore me.”
This was a relatively tame EBUG story. Anyone who has spent any time in the ECHL can tell you tales of EBUGs actually getting into games.
That includes Heartlanders Coach Gerry Fleming.
“I’ve got a couple,” he smiled.
Probably the most famous hockey EBUGs in the last handful of years have been David Ayres and Scott Foster, who were basically beer-league guys who actually got into games for the Carolina Hurricanes and Chicago Blackhawks, respectively. And won them, the first time that’s ever happened in the NHL.
“Having grown up in Iowa City, I’ve always wanted to see a hockey team here. We finally got one,” Snee said. “It’s kind of always been a little dream of mine to actually get on the ice. Getting on the big stage here was pretty cool. Even if I was just sitting on my butt.”
The first shootout in Heartlanders history went the way of Wichita, as Peter Crinella and Jay Dickman scored on the Thunder’s two attempts, while Wichita goalie Evan Buitenhuis stopped Heartlanders attemptes from Alex Khovanov and Kris Bennett.
The Heartlanders head to Fort Wayne for two games this weekend. Iowa is 4-10-2-1 for 11 standings points, last in the entire ECHL.
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