Emergency goalie David Ayres helps Hurricanes defeat Maple Leafs in wild NHL debut
The 42-year-old -- who occasionally drives a Zamboni -- beat the team that employs him as a practice goalie
On Saturday in Toronto, injuries to both James Reimer and Petr Mrazek forced the Carolina Hurricanes to call on in-house emergency goaltender David Ayres in the second period against the Toronto Maple leafs. Reimer was forced out with an injury late in the first period, and Mrazek left after Kyle Clifford collided with him while going for a loose puck midway through the second period. Clifford was given a charging penalty on the play.
Here's the moment Ayres was brought on for his unexpected duties.
Carolina held Toronto to 10 shots on goal in the 28-plus minutes Ayres was in net, and he stopped the final eight in helping the Canes to a 6-3 victory. He told Sportsnet in Canada after the game that the experience was awesome: "Obviously the time of my life out there ... once in a lifetime, I'll take it."
According to the Hurricanes, Ayres last served as an emergency backup goalie Feb. 1 for the team's AHL minor league affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, against the Toronto Marlies -- the team Ayres works for as a Zamboni driver and practice goalie, per NHL.com's Mike Zeisberger. He dressed for the game but did not play.
Unfortunately for Carolina, Ayres' NHL debut had a less-than-ideal start. Entering the game with a 4-1 lead, he allowed goals on the first two shots he faced. However, things got better for Ayres and the Hurricanes.
Ayres gathered himself and shut out the Maple Leafs the rest of the way. "I told the boys in the dressing room, once we come out for the third I'll be settled down and ready to win this one," he said.
In that dressing room after the game, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour congratulated the team and Ayres, and put the special night in perspective: "It's not often in a game you get tied to a great memory," Brind'Amour said. "You'll see when you're done, all you'll have is the memories you've got."
Ayres was named first star of the game. Despite having mixed feelings about the situation, many Maple Leafs fans who were familiar with Ayres gave him a standing ovation.
Ayres said he was scheduled to practice with the Maple Leafs at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. He said he expected the Leafs players to be congratulatory about Ayres' triumph, and that there would no awkwardness.
Whether Ayres gets paid for this depends on the kind of deal he gets after the fact. If the Hurricanes sign him to an amateur tryout agreement, he gets, as legendary Blackhawks EBUG Scott Foster once said, "Just beer league glory." If he gets a Professional Try-Out Agreement, he gets $500, is allowed to keep the jersey with his name on it and is given the chance to try out for the team, per the CBA.
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