Better With Popcorn

Brad Phillips: The Life of an ECHL Goalie

The life of a minor league player is usually characterized by long bus rides and playing in smaller arenas in front of small crowds for far less money than even an NHL player on a minimum contract makes.

That said, the goal of a minor league hockey player is simple; be the best player you possibly can in order to earn your way up to the next level.

For AHL players, that means moving up to the NHL.

In the case of ECHL players, like Trenton Titans goalie Brad Phillips, this means playing to get the AHL.

Picked in the 7th round of the 2007 NHL Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers, Phillips has seen his fair share of, well, we’ll call them ‘unusual’ circumstances.

However, Friday, February 24, takes the cake as the craziest of them all.

“I’m not sure what they had planned,” Phillips said. “It was just curveballs all day.”

Phillips’s coach, Vince Williams, who has played or coached in minor league hockey since 1998, called the day one of the most unique he’s ever seen.

“This one’s up there,” he said. “I’ve never had a day like this before.”

Unlike NHL players who have chartered flights from city to city, ECHL players ride a team bus for most trips and only fly when absolutely needed. Sometimes, travel plans get complicated because of this.

Phillips had no idea what he was in for when he got to the rink in Trenton for the morning skate.

At around noon, the wild ride began.

“Well, I was eating my pregame meal, getting ready for this game,” he said. “Then I got a call from Vince saying I was getting called up [to the Phantoms].”

This is not unusual for minor league players. If a player at an upper level gets injured or sick or can’t play, someone needs to be rushed up from a lower level to take the spot. As fans of NHL teams notice, there is always someone on the farm ready to fill in.

So like many players before him, Phillips jumped at the opportunity.

“I had to come here to the rink, and get all my stuff” he said referring to his equipment at Sun Center, “then go back to my apartment, pack and go to the airport.”

Only this time, Phillips hadn’t anticipated Mother Nature getting in the way.

“I went to the airport [in Philadelphia],” he said. “It was a 4:00 flight [to Rochester] then it was delayed to 4:50 and it got cancelled at like 4:55.”

With no way to get to the Phantoms in time for the game, the wheels turned for the organization as a whole. They reassigned Phillips back to the Titans, which made him eligible for the game against the Greenville Road Warriors.

“I called Vince and he said, ‘hey, you can come play if you can make it (back to Trenton)” Phillips said referring to a conversation he had with his coach about two hours prior to puck drop.

Now came the hard part; getting back to Trenton from Philadelphia in time to play in the game.

“I waited for my bags,” Phillips said. “Then I hopped in a cab and just came to the game.”

He hit the ice in Trenton with the Titans already down 2-0, just six minutes into the first period.

“I was kind of getting focused for the game in the cab, but not really,” he admitted. “You can’t really do much [about the situation].

Phillips played well despite the makeshift lineup in front of him, and while he suffered a tough luck loss, he did make 25 saves on 28 shots in 53:34 of game action.

While the call-up wasn’t as smoothly as he would have hoped, you can be sure that Phillips will do it all over again the next time the AHL comes calling.