Tyler Zetting

Lynden High School alum Tyler Zetting stands in the Seattle Kraken locker room during a skate at the arena. He has not yet had to gear up during a game. (Photo courtesy of Tyler Zetting)

Tyler Zetting is one of four emergency backup goaltenders for the expansion Seattle Kraken

SEATTLE -- An emergency backup goaltender in the National Hockey League may be the most peculiar of professional sports positions.

Seattle’s brand-new NHL team, the Kraken, have four of them.

Tyler Zetting, a Lynden High School alum and Western Washington University hockey goaltender from 2009-13, is one of those four.

“Every team has these guys that, you know, they’ve got their day jobs — they’re just average joes, if you will,” Zetting said. “But they have a chance of jumping into a professional sports game in one of the most critical positions.”

Zetting is an accounting manager by day, and now, occasionally, an EBUG by night.

Each of the four Kraken EBUGs are allotted a certain amount of home games in which they attend. Currently, they are still working on having all assignments out, Zetting said.

In the event of not one, but two of the goaltenders for the Kraken or their opponent cannot continue to play, that’s when Zetting comes in. So yes, he may also play against the hometown team.

He does not suit up for the game but brings his gear to the rink. Perched in the press box, most of the time Zetting will simply get to watch professional hockey with free, exquisite seating.

However, if one goaltender goes down, he heads to the locker room and suits up. If the second encounters the same fate, things get wonky.

Before entering the game, Zetting would sign what is essentially a one-day contract with whichever NHL team he would be playing for, he said. There is a small amount of compensation, but nothing remotely in the range of those already on the ice.

“We [EBUGs] don’t care about the money at that point,” Zetting said. “We just care about the experience.”

There is no jersey prepared, but they always keep a name plate ready. They sew that onto a Kraken — or opposing team — jersey and he’s nearly ready.

They send the contract to the NHL for approval, and once that’s done, he would get a short warmup on the ice. Then it’s gametime.

“As I like to say, every night I’m there it’s a ‘non-zero’ chance of playing an NHL game, which is crazy,” Zetting said. “If the opportunity ever did arise, I think adrenaline would take over. You’d probably just get into game mode and then almost black out and come-to afterwards.”

Zetting was the Kraken’s EBUG for their home opener at Climate Pledge Arena on Oct. 23. His next assigned game is on Saturday, Nov. 13, when Seattle hosts the Minnesota Wild.

While he may not have prior NHL experience, Zetting’s hockey background has him well-equipped to skate onto the ice should his name ever be called.

He grew up in Lynden, playing youth hockey in Bellingham for what, at the time, was the Bellingham Youth Hockey Association. It is now the Whatcom County Amateur Hockey Association.

Zetting then played for the Bellingham Bulls of the World Hockey Association’s Junior West Hockey League during their lone season of existence in 2006-07.

For the 2007-08 season, Zetting was a member of the Burnaby Express, now the Coquitlam Express, of the British Columbia Hockey League. He began his WWU career in 2009.

The Vikings, along with Zetting, won the National Collegiate Hockey Club national championship in 2012. The previous three years the team competed in the American College Hockey Association. They returned to the ACHA in 2014.

“That was, from a life perspective, some of the most meaningful years of my life with all the people I met through that,” Zetting said. “We had a really good team; I love those guys.”

In fact, Zetting isn’t the only former Viking now serving as a Kraken EBUG. Rob Macdonald, who took over at goaltender for Western the year after Zetting graduated, is also one of the four.

The two are good friends and kept in touch throughout the entire process. When they both landed the position, it couldn’t have been more perfect.

Each of them received an invitation to the tryout, basically out of nowhere.

“I play a lot of hockey in the Seattle area, and so I don’t know who nominated me, or who scouted me out,” Zetting said. “Someone, somewhere put my name in.”

Zetting grew up always dreaming about playing in the NHL. As he grew older, that dream faded from focus. It was a very difficult thing for him to give up on, he said.

Now, he may not be on an official roster and would never wish injury on anyone, but even the chance of being thrust onto NHL ice in the blink of an eye may satisfy a piece of that dream.

“I got the call a few days later [after the tryout],” Zetting said. “As soon as I hung up, I definitely cried.”