Catching Up With New Jersey Devils Emergency Backup Goalie Kyle Shapiro

Kyle Shapiro #65 of the New Jersey Devils skates in warm-ups for his first NHL game prior to facing the New York Islanders at the UBS Arena on January 13, 2022 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Kyle Shapiro #65 of the New Jersey Devils skates in warm-ups for his first NHL game prior to facing the New York Islanders at the UBS Arena on January 13, 2022 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

A couple of weeks ago, the New Jersey Devils had the chance to hold their annual exit interviews. This gives the players, coaches, and general manager the chance to share their insight and perspective as to how the season went, and what to expect moving forward. However, there was one player who didn’t get the chance to do an exit interview. That would be the emergency backup goalie, Kyle Shapiro.

Back in January, in a game against the New York Islanders, the Devils needed a goalie to temporarily backup Jon Gillies. They ultimately made the call to Shapiro informing him that he would suit up for them in that one game.

Shapiro is a 29-year-old Ocean, New Jersey native. He played D3 college hockey for both the University of Southern Maine and also New England College. Currently, he serves as an assistant coach for the New Jersey Junior Titans of the North American Hockey League (NAHL). While Shapiro didn’t see action during the game that he was assigned to backup in, he was still grateful for the opportunity. I had the chance to interview him for my podcast show “Locked On Devils”.

Watch the full interview here.

Question: Where did hockey begin for you?

Kyle Shapiro: Nice and young, just like everybody else. My dad bringing me to Devils games…being a ’93 birth year, you grow up watching the best Devils teams that they’ve ever had. You see the teams that won all the Stanley Cups and get to watch one of the greatest goalies of all time [Martin Brodeur]. So, it all kind of started [with] my dad just taking me to games casually and just kind of fell in love with the sport.

Q: You go from being a former college athlete to being a coach, and now you become the emergency backup for the New Jersey Devils organization. What was that process like?

KS: It happened pretty fast for me. I knew about it a little bit…One of our workers here, Gary Biggs, used to be an emergency goalie back before COVID started. He still is now and he knows the guy over at the Devils, Scott Litwack, who runs the whole emergency goalie situation and everything over there. At the beginning of the year, Gary was like, “Hey, we’re looking to get some other guys involved I’m going to tell Scotty you’re doing it.”…It kind of took a life of its own from there. There are about six or seven of us that do some games for the Devils and just kind of hang out and go watch the games just in case. So, it kind of just happened pretty fast.

Q: When you’re new to the team, you have to do one lap around the rink before the rest of the team comes out. So, what was that feeling like?

KS: Yeah, I think one of the best parts about it was hopping on the ice. I had a lot of people in the building that night: the people that I work with, their families, my mom, my dad, a couple of people on my cousin’s side of the family, a bunch of friends came, and a bunch of players from my team were able to be there. So, being able to hop out on the ice and hear them going crazy because they were able to get down by the tunnel, and be able to watch me skate out… that was a pretty special moment. I had to do it without a helmet on so that was a little scary and nerve-wracking at times…I was hoping I just didn’t fall and I was just hoping that I hit the net with the two pucks I shot on net…So, the coolest part about the whole thing was seeing everybody that I know in the building just with as big a smile on their face as I had.

Q: What was that overall feeling like just sitting on the bench and just knowing that you can go in at any given moment? 

KS: Yeah, I think that’s a big thing people have been surprised about with the whole thing. You know I wasn’t that nervous, to be honest with you. I think one of their equipment managers hangs out down by the end of the bench and everything, his name’s Nate. I think Nate did a great job with me honestly, just keeping me laughing throughout the game and just trying to enjoy it. Instead of being nervous about what could possibly happen if Jon [Gillies] goes down for whatever reason…He [Nate] kept telling me to make sure I get the [bench] door open, [so that way] we don’t [get] too many men on the ice penalties. So, just kind of focused on that, enjoying some laughs with Nate and everything during TV timeouts.

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Overall, Shapiro had a great experience inside the Devils’ locker room. He said that he was welcomed with open arms by the entire roster, especially by PK Subban. He described Subban as a “polarizing figure” and also a genuine “stand-up guy”. In addition to that, he also said that Lindy Ruff, his staff, and Tom Fitzgerald were building something special with their organization. Especially with their young core of Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, and Jesper Bratt.