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What happens if a goalie has to go to the bathroom during an NHL game?

Sometimes, the call of nature is impossible to ignore, and if it happens during a game, something has to give one way or the other

Sometimes, the call of nature is impossible to ignore, and if it happens during a game, something has to give one way or the other
Miami HeraldGetty

All NHL goalies dread the idea of suddenly having to use the toilet during a game. Everyone points to the famous incident in Game 5 of the 2007 Stanley Cup semi-finals when Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo missed the start of overtime owing to, ahem, a “number two” that simply could not wait.

“I started having stomach problems in the third period and usually, sometimes, it happens during a game, but they just go away. But once I got back to the locker room, I sat down and I was fine and I was just [going to] let it pass,” Luongo explained. “Once I stood up to get ready to go to the ice, which was three minutes before the intermission [ends], I went to the trainer and was like ‘I can’t, I can’t, I gotta go’.

Braden Holtby is another goaltender who has to keep an eye on the digestion before a game. The Dallas Stars tender knows from bitter experience that certain foods, particularly caffeine and tomato-rich sauces, will force his hand no matter what the situation on the ice. “I think we’ve all had that uh-oh moment,” says Holtby.

Of course, for your run-of-the-mill tinkle, there is ample time during the 20 minutes between periods, but even this can feel like a chore for the minders, whose equipment is by far the most worn by any athlete in any team sport. Buried under about 50 pounds of pads and straps, plus Omar-the-tentmaker sized jerseys, it can take an eternity to simply unencumber one’s self.

And while, yes, hockey players are regularly substituted on and off the ice, this is rarely the case for the goaltender, whose services are required for the full length of the game.

In the 2015 Stanley Cup final, Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop disappeared in Game 2 for, allegedly, just such an emergency. Bishop has never confirmed or denied the tale, and has had to leave the ice with groin injury before, so it is just possible that this was not a bathroom break. But then again…

These cases, it must be noted, were exceptional moments of illness or diarrhea. Most of the time, normal kidney and bowel function are such that you would go in between periods and then simply shut down any thought of it during the game.

Braden Holtby agrees. “You go there and you forget about it. Just the way your body works.”

Retired goaltender Marty Turco remembers with a laugh forwards trying on the goaltender’s gear. “I really enjoy when even non-goalies put on goalie gear just to appreciate how hard it is to move, how tiring it is to go up and down with that crap on. Inevitably, one or two of them always says, ‘Uhhh, what happens if you’ve got to take a s***? And you’re like, ‘Yeah, don’t s***.’ That’s why we’re smarter than the rest of you guys, because we think about this stuff all the time.”


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