Dean Humphrey’s SHL career has been a strange one, to say the least. The blueliner’s excellent speed and decent passing ability made him a fringe prospect for a time, but his defensive struggles, awkward skating style, and unfortunate knack for bonehead mistakes kept him from seizing a starting job (although it did make him a folk hero in Seattle for a while).
This season, Humphrey couldn’t find a major-league job at all; he wound up signing a minor-league pact with the Washington Galaxy and has spent the season playing for their CHL affiliate, the Baltimore Blue Crabs. There, the 25-year-old defenseman has continued his typical career trajectory: flashes of promise marred by frustrating errors, a handful of assists, and no goals.
This week, Humphrey scored his first goal of the season; in fact, it’s the first goal of his entire SHL tenure. Normally, this would be a cause for celebration. But because this is Humphrey, this was nothing to cheer about. The reason is that his tally occurred when he inadvertently flung the puck into his own net.
“It’s never easy to guess what you’re going to get with Dean,” said Blue Crabs coach Roland Tedesco. “But this… this was something else again.”
The incident occurred early in the third period of Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Hogs. In real time, it unfolded so quickly that it was hard to tell what had happened. One moment, Humphrey and Hogs D Seth Dowd were chasing after a loose puck in the corner; the next moment, it was behind Crabs goalie Gennady Kulbakin in the net.
It was only after viewing it in slow-motion that the disaster became clear. Dowd got to the puck first and flipped it toward the crease, only for it to get stuck in Humphrey’s glove. Humphrey tried to fling the puck away, but it managed to find daylight between the goalie and the crossbar. Since Dowd was the last Milwaukee player to touch the puck, he received credit for the goal.
“I know closing your hand around the puck is a penalty, so once I felt it in my hand I knew I had to get rid of it,” said Humphrey. “I just wanted to throw it down in the other corner or flip it to [Kulbakin] so he could cover it, but it just… wound up in the net.”
As the clip replayed on the Jumbotron, the Crabs sarcastically saluted their teammate by thumping their sticks against the boards, while Humphrey tried to hide his face behind a towel. “The guys already make fun of me a lot,” he admitted. “And this isn’t really going to help with that.”
Given that Baltimore won the game 6-2 despite the friendly-fire goal, the Crabs’ general postgame reaction was bemusement. “I’ve seen own goals before, sure,” said C Tucker Barnhill. “Usually it’s because you’re defending and it takes a bad bounce off your stick, or deflects off your skate blade. Throwing it into the next, that’s… something you don’t usually see.”
“I was kind of impressed with Humps’ aim there,” said D Stan Shakovich. “Normally his shots are way off the mark, but this time he throws it and in it goes. Maybe he should use his hands more often.”
Tedesco’s initially had a hard time seeing the humor in the situation. “An incredibly dumb move by a dumb player,” the coach fumed in his post-game press conference. “Humphrey’s got talent, but he’s throwing it away because he doesn’t have two brain cells to rub together. If I have to watch that again, I’m going to puke.”
The next day, though, he had calmed down a bit. “Slow-mo makes it look worse than it was, almost like he did it on purpose,” Tedesco said of the play. “It was a split-second mistake, and that could happen to anybody. Somehow, though, it feels like it could only happen to Humphrey. He’s one of a kind, he really is.”