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Former Blackhawk of the Week: Matt Underhill

He was one of six goalies that Chicago used in a dreadful 2003-04 season.

Oilers v Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

“Who?”

I’m glad you asked. Matt Underhill was a goalie who played for the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2003-04 NHL season.

“Still never heard of him.”

Well, that’s fair. Because if you weren’t at the United Center (because it wasn’t broadcast on TV) on March 7, 2004, you missed Underhill’s entire NHL career.

During a miserable 2003-04 season, the Blackhawks used six goalies over their 82-game schedule, a feat matched this season because of the injury and performance issues that sank Chicago’s season.

Chicago started the season with Jocelyn Thibault as its No. 1 goalie, coming off an all-star season the year before with career-bests in GAA (2.37) and save percentage (.915). But he got injured in the first week of November and would not return until late March. That’s when the revolving door in net started spinning like a Joel Quenneville line blender.

Steve Passmore would have his season cut short by a hip injury in February. Youngsters Craig Anderson (yes, the one who started 55 games for the Ottawa Senators this season) and Michael Leighton (yes, that Michael Leighton) spent time between the NHL and the Norfolk Admirals, then the Blackhawks AHL affiliate.

With neither Leighton nor Anderson doing enough to earn more playing time at the NHL level (sound familiar?), the team signed 2001 first-round pick Adam Munro on Valentine’s Day and had him starting in net two weeks later. But he would be sidelined with a concussion in the first week of March, which meant the Hawks were desperate for yet another goalie.

Enter: Matt Underhill

Underhill was originally drafted by the Calgary Flames in the sixth round (170th overall) of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, although he never made it to the NHL level with that franchise. Underhill remained at Cornell for all four college seasons (and was later inducted into Cornell’s Hall of Fame in 2012). He’d been bouncing between the ECHL and AHL when the Hawks signed him on March 4. One day later, Leighton gave up five goals in a loss to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. So, on March 7, the Hawks turned to Underhill.

His numbers weren’t bad for an NHL debut, with Underhill stopping 29 of the 33 shots he faced in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers.

But that was the only NHL action Underhill got that season and in his whole career. He returned to the ECHL and AHL for the next two seasons retiring in 2006 after spending that season with the ECHL’s Alaska Aces.

He’s now on the Wikipedia list for NHL players who appeared in one game, a list that includes another notable hockey name: Don Cherry.

But ... Underhill did make it to the show. So he’s got that on most of us.