The bulging eyes. The disbelief. The slack-jawed double takes followed by a humbling, “Wait, that’s you!?”
This has become the predictable reaction when Jay White takes out his tour books and reveals his double-life to new teammates.
He’s never offended by it. He gets it. After all, there’s no standard protocol for when a player discovers his backup goaltender for the night is Neil Diamond.
“They’re surprised when they find it out," said White.
"And then of course they want me to sing ‘Sweet Caroline.’”
Jay White has been playing goal since he was eight years old, growing up in Ontario before moving to Detroit. His dream was to make it to the NHL one day; the farthest he took his hockey career was a pair of preseason games with the IHL Kalamazoo Wings.
Jay White has also been performing as Neil Diamond for 30 years, including a long stint at the Riviera in Vegas. He bears more than a passing resemblance to the singer, to the point where Diamond’s brother once admitted he could pass for a relative. (Neil himself wrote, on a photograph with White: “Jay … keep singing so I can stay home and relax.”)
When he’s not belting out “Craklin’ Rose” at a 'Legends' show, White has been an on-call emergency goaltender in Las Vegas for roughly 20 years. If the local team – be it the now-defunct IHL Thunder or the ECHL’s Wranglers, Sin City’s current minor league hockey franchise – was down a goalie, they’d call White to fill in.
“If one of their goalies gets sick or hurt or called up or called down, and they get stuck with one goalie, they’ll call me in. I’ll practice for a couple of days and then maybe dress for a game,” he said.
This used to be easier for White, back in his youth. That’s the irony: The older one gets as a goalie, the tougher it is to perform; the older one gets as Neil Diamond, the more one fits the part.
He’s now 58 years old with three children, hitting the gym three times a week and the ice twice in order to remain in playing shape. Last summer, he hit the rink with Wranglers players, Deryk Engelland of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild to practice for the upcoming season, so White could be ready if his services were needed.
On Sunday, he got the emergency call again.
Only it wasn’t from the home team.
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