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Canada  

'Unique Canadian problem'

His netminding skills may not rival those of the Montreal Canadiens' Carey Price, but Jacques Gravel has saved many a hockey game.

And at about $40 a game, Gravel comes considerably cheaper than Price, who commands an eight-year, $84 million contract.

Gravel is one of the growing number of goaltenders offering his services on GoalieUp — a website and app that connects local goaltenders with hockey teams looking for a last-minute fill-in ahead of game time.

The 51-year-old says renting himself out as a goalie helped to keep him afloat during a nine-month bout of unemployment a few years ago.

"I was running from one rink to the next, averaging a game or two every single day," he said.

"During that period it was something that kept me going."

But while the extra money can come in handy, Gravel says his love of the game and a desire to help other players out are by far the biggest motivator.

"I love to play and I've never met a bad bunch of hockey players," he said.

"When the goalie shows up in the dressing room, they're thrilled — you're the star of the team and very much appreciated."

The app was created by Montreal-area goalie Mark Manning, who got the idea of renting himself out as a substitute goaltender when he was an unemployed student.

What began as a texting service for Montreal goalies seven years ago has now grown into an app that includes about 2,000 netminders across Canada and beyond, including 700 to 800 in the Montreal area.

While many leagues keep lists of available goaltenders, entrepreneurs such as Manning are using technology to create a convenient solution to one of the game's perpetual problems.

Manning said many leagues face goaltender shortages, largely because of the physical and mental challenges that come with the role.

"It's not just standing in front of a puck," he said in a phone interview. "You have to be mobile, to be flexible, there's a whole bunch of things, including the cost of equipment."

Teams who use the app are charged $40 for the first hour, which includes a booking fee and a cash payment to the goalie.

Netminders are paid more if the game goes longer, plus an extra $10 for a late-night or last-minute request.

"It doesn't really work in other sports, in other sports anyone can play any position," he said.

 

"It's definitely a unique Canadian problem."



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