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Published: Monday, 1/24/2011

He shoots! He scores … a shiny new Jeep

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Corrected version: The distance of the shot has been changed.

It was an unbelievable shot -- a $22,000 shot.

Eric Gaylord of Maumee won a 2010 Jeep Wrangler during intermission after the first period of the Toledo Walleye's game against Cincinnati Sunday night by making the slap shot of his life.

He had to shoot the puck from the far blue line -- 114 feet from the goal -- through a slot barely larger than the puck itself.

The goal was covered with a cardboard cutout, and the open slot was just 3 3/4 inches wide and 2 inches high.

Mr. Gaylord, 36, said it was his son Ethan's 8th birthday and that his wife, Tiffany, signed him up for the contest before the game.

"It's one of the most exciting moments of my life," he said.

"I shot it, and I didn't think it went in. But the crowd let me know it was in. I'm thankful I was lucky enough that it went in."

The puck barely tucked inside the small slot on Mr. Gaylord's shot, and it looked as though it had stopped and had not crossed the goal line. But the crowd erupted and gave Mr. Gaylord a standing ovation.

"It was shock and awe more than anything else," Mr. Gaylord said.

Mr. Gaylord, a sales representative for a food service company, is a season ticket-holder for Walleye games.

The contest is sponsored by Charlie's Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram and Grogan's Towne Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram.

The name of the contestant is chosen at random.

The Jeep is worth more than $22,000.

Toledo Walleye defenseman Jason Lepine, who scored two goals in Sunday's game, said he was amazed to hear about the feat.

He said if he took 10 shots from the same area on clean ice, he might make the shot once.

"That's real tough," Mr. Lepine said.

"It's one of those shots where you hope you get a good angle and get lucky to throw it in there."

Toledo coach Nick Vitucci said he missed winning a car by inches in a similar competition when he was 9.

"But it bounced off the side and popped out," Mr. Vitucci said.

"I have seen it a few times. But that's awesome."

Mike Ramirez, who is the video and television productions manager for the Walleye, said it is an insured promotion.

He said the insurance company has to first review video footage of the event before the prize is awarded.

"We provide them with the video," Mr. Ramirez said. "The review takes about a week and a half."

Mr. Ramirez, who works in a similar capacity with the Mud Hens, said a fan won a PT Cruiser at a baseball game in the first season at Fifth Third Field.

"We had this happen one other time at the ballpark," he said.

"It was a dice-rolling contest, and they needed to match the five dice. And a woman won it."

The puck-shooting contest is new this season and has been held at about 15 other Walleye games.

"I think as a staff it's always shocking when you witness something like this," Mr. Ramirez said.

"It's a one-in-a-million shot. It's always exciting. You feel good for the person."

Mr. Gaylord, who grew up in Toledo and attended St. John's Jesuit High School, said he played travel hockey when he was younger.

He also played a few years of Junior A hockey in the North American Hockey League.

"I still play pick-up hockey once in a while," Mr. Gaylord said. "I'm on and off the ice with my son."

Ethan Gaylord is a forward for the Toledo Cherokee mite team.

Mr. Gaylord said he had never participated in any contests before and that he didn't have time to practice.

"My wife just filled out the form before the game," Mr. Gaylord said.

"It's very cool."

Mr. Gaylord's luck rubbed off on the Walleye; the team won Sunday night's game 4-2.

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com, or 419-724-6354.



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