Pogharian Experiences Opportunity of a Lifetime
San Diego native and lifelong Gulls fan recently dressed as the team's emergency backup goaltender.Dec 20, 2019
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
Taniel Pogharian recently experienced the shared dream of every weekend warrior.
Pogharian, a frequent participant in adult league hockey at The Rinks – Poway ICE, found himself living the life of a San Diego Gull, dressing as the team’s emergency backup goaltender before its tilt with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
“Walking in, seeing the nameplate, seeing my jersey, it’s almost full circle,” Pogharian, a lifelong San Diego Gulls fan, said when discussing Tuesday night. “I can say I got signed by the Gulls. It’s awesome.”
Pogharian’s relationship with the Gulls started long before Tuesday night. As a born and raised San Diegan, he avidly followed several of the previous hockey franchises, and started the playing the sport when he turned seven. He started playing goalie at 12, attracted to the position by the equipment.
He turned this interest into opportunity, playing on a local junior team before moving into recreational leagues.
Pogharian became familiar with the Gulls training and equipment staff through his Tuesday night hockey league at Poway ICE. After regularly competing against San Diego’s staff team, he received an invitation to skate with them at Pechanga Arena San Diego before games.
“One day, they needed a goalie (for a team practice),” he said. “They asked me if I’d like to do it.”
Pogharian, an artist and sculptor at Color Me Mine in Rancho Bernardo, routinely fills in when one of the team’s regular goaltenders doesn’t practice, and Tuesday seemed like one of those opportunities. He received a call while driving his children to school, asking if he could make the team’s morning skate. After confirming his availability, he made the drive to the arena, joining the team on the ice.
Soon after the skate, Pogharian realized this wouldn’t follow the normal script.
With Kevin Boyle not playing due to flu-like symptoms, Kevin Dineen approached Pogharian with an offer to suit up as the team’s backup goaltender.
“I was getting little butterflies,” he said while discussing the conversation with Dineen. “It was exciting.”
The team’s reception made Pogharian feel welcomed.
“It’s such a tight-knit family, the whole group,” he said. “When they found out I was backing up, they were so excited.”
The highlight for the netminder came during warmups, where he made sure to soak up every moment.
“When I was stretching on the side, I was waving at (my boys),” he said. “My son was showing me the puck he got (during warmups).”
Before he knew it, he was sitting on the bench during the game, manning the bench door and passing out water bottles during breaks in the action. Pogharian noticed the small intricacies rarely seen from the stands, and noted how much communication exists over the course of a period.
Eventually, Olle Eriksson Ek arrived from Tulsa. He quickly dressed, taking Pogharian’s spot on the bench for the rest of the game. The team’s emergency backup spent the rest of the game in the training room, keeping on his pads in case the team needed to summon him again.
Pogharian continuously used the word surreal to describe Tuesday’s experience. He took home the nameplate and jersey from the experience, and received photos from the team to document his night.
“Totally aware of the fact it’s such a unique experienced,” he said. “Honored they asked me to come out. It’s not lost on me the honor they gave me. It’s an honor they have me out there.”