A really great thing happened at the Toronto Maple Leafs game on Saturday night – no, the Leafs didn’t win (Hahahahahaha) (sorry, but most Canadians outside of Ontario don’t enjoy the Leafs a whole lot), but a regular guy named Dave Ayers became a national hockey hero. Check out this story:
TORONTO — David Ayres was sitting in the stands with his wife at Scotiabank Arena when Carolina Hurricanes goalie James Reimer went down with an injury.
The on-call emergency netminder in Toronto, Ayers left his seat and got half-dressed into his gear on the off-chance something might happen to Carolina’s second option, Petr Mrazek.
Midway through the second period, Ayres noticed his cellphone started to blow up. What he didn’t realize was that Mrazek had been hurt in a scary collision with Maple Leafs forward Kyle Clifford and was down on the ice.
The next thing Ayres, a 42-year-old Zamboni driver, knew, he was walking down the tunnel and into the spotlight.
And not long after, he had an improbable first N.H.L. win. He is the oldest goalie to win in his N.H.L. regular-season debut.
Ayres allowed goals on the first two shots he faced before settling down and stopping the next eight in a suffocating defensive performance by his new teammates as Carolina picked up a stunning 6-3 victory over the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
“I had a couple of text messages that told me to get in there,” Ayres said in front of a throng of reporters. “I hadn’t seen the footage. I was in the media room by myself and a guy came in and said: ‘Get going. Get ready.’
“It was wild, it was fun,” said Ayres, who will be paid $500 and get to keep his jersey.
Ayres, who had a kidney transplant 15 years ago and wasn’t sure if he would ever play hockey again, has been a practice goalie with the Leafs and the club’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, for the last eight years.
A native of nearby Whitby, Ontario, he faces shots from professional players almost daily during the season, but he never thought he would be called into service in an N.H.L. game.
“These guys were awesome,” Ayres said. “They said to me, ‘Have fun with it, don’t worry about how many goals go in, this is your moment, have fun with it.’”
He did more than that, and was greeted with raucous cheers from the Hurricanes in their locker room after finishing a postgame TV interview.
“I had no idea I was going to get a shower before I got in the shower,” Ayres, the game’s first star, said with a grin. “I got one.”
Not long after the final buzzer, the Hurricanes were hawking T-shirts on Twitter sporting the stand-in goalie’s No. 90.
“It’s pretty special,” Hurricanes Coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “I told the guys after the game, ‘Thank him because that just gave an incredible memory.’”
“He probably dreams of playing in the National Hockey League,” Foegele said of Ayres. “What a moment for him. Something he’ll never forget, and something we won’t either.”
“The reality is that the game really just stayed the same,” said Maple Leafs Coach Sheldon Keefe, whose players mustered just seven shots in the third. “When the goalie switch happened, I talked to the team and said: ‘If we don’t change how we’re playing, they don’t even need a goalie. There’re no chances, no shots, there’s nothing happening.’”
Ayres made his first save late in the second on Auston Matthews as Carolina led, 4-3, through a wild 40 minutes and shut things down in the third.
“These guys,” Ayres said of what he’ll remember most. “How great they were to me. The crowd in Toronto was unreal. Even though I was on the other team, they were so receptive. Every time I made a save I could hear them cheering for me.
Isn’t that fantastic??? Every hockey fan’s dream – I LOVE this!!! ♥️