By Mike Mastovich
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Johnstown Chiefs rookie forward Matt Reid already has been part of one miracle on ice.
The former University of British Columbia player was a stunt double and an extra in the Kurt Russell motion picture “Miracle,” which retold the story of coach Herb Brooks and his 1980 Olympic champion United States hockey team that upset the Soviet Union.
Just maybe, Reid hopes, the Johnstown Chiefs will provide him a miracle of another sort this winter as the ECHL’s smallest market team butts heads with some of the league giants through 72 games and perhaps the postseason.
Toby O’Brien likes Reid for more than his brief brush with Hollywood, via Vancouver, British Columbia.
In Reid, the Chiefs coach sees a steady performer, a leader and an asset in the locker room.
“He had opportunities early, but he couldn’t find the back of the net,” O’Brien said of Reid, a three-time captain at UBC. “In the last week or so, his fortunes have turned a little bit. He’s been everything I expected. He’s a real positive influence around the team and in the locker room.”
Reid scored his first two goals, one on Nov. 13 in a win over visiting Peoria and the second on Nov. 19 in a victory over Dayton at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
He added a highlight reel goal in the third period Saturday night, scoring the team’s first shorthand goal, on a breakaway.
The checking line combination of Reid, Mike James and Chad Cavanagh has provided grit, steady defense and even some offensive pop.
Reid had an even plus-minus rating through 14 games prior to Saturday’s contest against Long Beach at the War Memorial.
Without even realizing it, Johnstown hockey fans might have caught an early glimpse of Reid before he even joined the Chiefs.
That is, if they watched “Miracle” in a theater, on DVD or pay TV.
Reid’s involvement in the movie began without much fanfare. He answered a casting call and was selected from a group of athletes hoping to make a few extra bucks and gain some screen time. The movie was filmed from February to July 2003 in his hometown of Vancouver, also the location of the University of British Columbia.
“Basically, there was an open call to anybody who’s played a high level of hockey and wanted to be involved,” Reid said of the Walt Disney Pictures production. “They contacted my university coach. I was a stunt double. I filled in when actors couldn’t do certain things or didn’t want to take hits. I was just a body out there that would pop up once in a while. I also dressed for other teams that the U.S. played against in the movie, Norway and Sweden.”
While Reid certainly wasn’t a prominent player in the movie, his name appears in the credits.
He did receive some exposure during a scene about the United States’ loss to the Soviets in an exhibition game that preceded the Lake Placid Olympic competition.
“There is one specific hit that was in the scene in Madison Square Garden,” he said. “An American player skated out and was hip checked and does a flip. I was the guy who got hit there. If you look close, you could actually see me in a couple scenes.”
In January, the Chiefs attended a special screening of “Miracle” at the Richland Cinemas. Reid also had a chance to preview the movie across the continent.
“There was a screening in Vancouver for all the people who worked in the movie,” he said. “As a Canadian, we see a lot of movies that are pro-United States. This movie was more about Herb Brooks than how great the Americans were.”
Like many of the former “Slap Shot” actors and extras with Johnstown ties who have recounted their movie-making experience, Reid was surprised by the amount of idle time on the set.
“In that business, they say hurry up and wait,” Reid said. “You get all your gear on and get ready to go, then you sit there another two hours. There is a lot of down time as they set up every different shot. A short day is 12 hours. Sometimes they get up to 16 or 18 hours.”
But don’t be mistaken. Reid didn’t regret the experience.
“It was the best summer job a guy could have,” Reid said. “It’s a piece of history. Hopefully there will be bigger things to come in my life. I don’t want to look back at that as the biggest thing in my life.”