A few weeks ago, the New Jersey Devils had the chance to hold their annual exit interviews. It gives players, coaches and the general manager the chance to share their views and insights on how the season has gone and what to expect going forward. However, there was one player who didn’t get a chance to do an exit interview. That would be emergency goalie Kyle Shapiro.
In January, during a game against the New York Islanders, the Devils needed a goalie to temporarily replace Jon Gillies. They eventually called Shapiro to inform him that he would fit for them in this match.
Shapiro is a 29-year-old native of Ocean, New Jersey. He played D3 college hockey for both the University of Southern Maine and New England College. Currently, he is an assistant coach for the New Jersey Junior Titans of the North American Hockey League (NAHL). Although Shapiro didn’t see any action during the game he was assigned as backup in, he was still grateful for the opportunity. I had the chance to interview him for my “Locked On Devils” podcast show.
Watch the full interview here.
Question: Where did hockey start for you?
Kyle Shapiro: Nice and young, like everyone else. My dad brought me to Devils games… being born in 1993, you grow up watching the best Devils teams they’ve ever had. You see the teams that have won every Stanley Cup and you can see one of the greatest goaltenders of all time [Martin Brodeur]. So it all started [with] my dad casually took me to games and fell in love with the sport.
Q: You’ve gone from former college athlete to coach, and now you’re the emergency backup for the New Jersey Devils organization. What was this process like?
KS: It went pretty fast for me. I kinda knew that… One of our workers here, Gary Biggs, was an emergency goalie before COVID started. He still is now and he knows the Devils guy, Scott Litwack, who handles the whole emergency goalie situation and everything there. At the start of the year, Gary was like, “Hey, we’re looking to get other guys involved, I’m going to tell Scotty you do.”… It kind of took on a life of its own from there. There are about six or seven of us playing games for the Devils and hanging out and watching the games just in case. So it kind of happened pretty quickly.
Q: When you’re new to the team, you have to walk around the rink before the rest of the team comes out. So how was that feeling?
KS: Yeah, I think one of the best things about it was getting on the ice. I had a lot of people in the building that night: the people I work with, their families, my mother, my father, a few people on my cousin’s side, a group of friends came, and a group of the players of my team were able to be there. So to be able to jump on the ice and hear them go crazy because they were able to come down through the tunnel and be able to watch me skate… that was a pretty special moment. I had to do it without a helmet, so it was a bit scary and scary at times… I was hoping not to fall and I was just hoping to hit the net with the two pucks I shot at the net… So, the coolest part of it all was seeing everyone i know in the building with a smile as big as me.
Q: What was that general feeling, just sitting on the bench and knowing that you can come in at any time?
KS: Yeah, I think that’s a big thing that surprised people with all that. You know I wasn’t that nervous, to be honest with you. I think one of their equipment managers hangs out at the end of the bench and everything, his name is Nate. I think Nate did a great job with me honestly, just making me laugh throughout the game and just trying to enjoy it. Instead of being nervous about what might happen if Jon [Gillies] breaks down for some reason… It [Nate] kept telling me to make sure I get the [bench] open door, [so that way] we don’t [get] too many men on ice penalties. So just kinda focused on that, enjoying a few laughs with Nate and all during TV downtime.
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Overall, Shapiro had a great experience in the Devils locker room. He says he was welcomed with open arms by the whole team, especially by PK Subban. He described Subban as a “polarizing figure” and also a real “up guy”. On top of that, he also said that Lindy Ruff, her team, and Tom Fitzgerald are building something special with their organization. Especially with their young core of Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt.