Goalie Rob Zepp has played in Florida, Lowell, Finland and Germany. He’s been an Everblade, a Monster, a Polar Bear and a Phantom.
For the first time in his career on Sunday. Zepp will be something he’s never been before: a starting goalie in the National Hockey League.
Zepp, 33, is scheduled to make his debut for the Philadelphia Flyers at the Winnipeg Jets. He was the backup to Ray Emery in the Flyers’ wild 7-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night, as Emery gave up four goals on 25 shots. With back-to-back games and with Steve Mason injured, Zepp gets the call.
“He showed me in preseason he is a capable goalie,” coach Craig Berube said. “Definitely [had] a good preseason. Moved really well in net, side to side. Good structure to his game.”
Zepp worked on puck-handling with the Phantoms and Berube feels he’s improved there.
“Throughout your career, you always have your doubts,” Zepp replied when asked whether he’d ever get to the NHL level. “I always believed in myself and I could do it. I just needed an opportunity. One presented itself in the summer with the Flyers and another has presented itself now.”
It’s been a rather unorthodox journey for Zepp to the NHL.
Zepp played for the Plymouth Whalers for three seasons in the OHL. He was drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers in the fourth round in 1999 but never signed with the team. He was then drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2001 – fourth round, 11 spots lower than in 1999 – and toiled in the ECHL and AHL from 2001-05.
Then it was off to Europe: SaiPa in SM-liga in Finland, followed by a seven-year stint with Berlin in the German ice hockey league.
“I went over to Europe with the intention of coming back and everyday I've worked with that goal in mind,” Zepp told NJ.com. "I tried to not prepare to just be successful over there, but to try be successful over here one day and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity now and see where it leads."
The Flyers were fans, especially when it came to his playoff stats – he’s finished with GAA of 1.69 and 1.94 in two of his last three postseasons.
They signed him for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, and he impressed in the preseason, including a 38-save performance.
Now, the Newmarket, Ont. Native gets his chance in the NHL, eager to show that the wait was worth it. And, hopefully, to give NHL.com a number of Led Zeppelin-related headline puns.