Checkers President Makes Temporary
Return Between Pipes

By Cliff Mehrtens
Staff Writer
The Charlotte Observer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Jeff Longo went from the front office to the front of the net.

Longo, the Charlotte Checkers president, dressed as the emergency backup goaltender at Saturday’s game at Pee Dee.

It wasn’t a huge stretch. Longo, 29, played goalie at Rutgers, as he said “eight years and about 35 pounds ago.”

Kelly Guard was injured in Friday’s game, and the holiday weekend made it tough for coach Derek Wilkinson to find a fill-in. Wilkinson walked down the hall and signed his boss.

“I was glad to do it,” Longo said. “The guys were all good about it, and it was fun to see Derek and the players close-up in the heat of the game.”

An emergency backup can only play if the starter is injured and can’t continue. They rarely play, but it’s happened. The Checkers were quick to rib Longo about the possibility.

“I tried not to think about it,” he said, laughing. “I made sure (starter) Alex Westlund did all his stretching.”

Longo, wearing No. 39, went through Saturday’s morning skate and pregame warm-ups.

“Got a couple of nice bruises,” he said.

Longo practiced with the Checkers during a similar situation last season. He got into two West Coast Hockey League games — a combined 66 seconds — when he worked in the front offices of the Anchorage Aces (1997-98) and San Diego Gulls (’98-’99).

His pro career line: No goals allowed. Then again, no shots faced. His 0.00 goals-against average is intact.

Longo was unceremoniously released Monday, common fare for an emergency backup. He’ll likely return to game-night duties roaming Cricket Arena in a business suit.

“In the life of emergency back-ups, it’s not usual to have all kinds of guys in that position,” Wilkinson said. “It was just one game. If it were more, you’d want someone more experienced.”

Would he call on Longo again?

“Sure,” Wilkinson said, laughing. “We’re going to work on his conditioning.”