He’s a minor league Zamboni driver and maintenance worker who has survived two bouts with skin cancer. He’s a kidney transplant recipient from a family of goaltenders.
Meet David Ayres – the emergency goalie who made NHL history on Saturday night.
After Hurricanes goalies James Reimer and Petr Mrazek suffered injuries on Saturday, the 42-year-old Ayres was called upon and he made eight saves to help Carolina knock off the Maple Leafs, 6-3, in Toronto.
Ayres was at Scotiabank Arena with his wife in case of emergency. Home teams are required to have one goalie on hand if something is to happen to the active goalies for the two teams. For his troubles, Ayres got to take home his No. 90 “Canes” jersey, but was not paid for his appearance because he was on an Amateur Tryout contract.
“It was a lot of memories, that’s for sure. The money’s not a thing. The memories are what I’ll take away from it,” he said on “The Dan Patrick Show” on Monday.
Ironically, he has ties to the Maple Leafs. He is a Zamboni driver for the Toronto Marlies, their American Hockey League team affiliate, and works maintenance at the Marlies’ arena, the Coca-Cola Coliseum. He has even spent the last eight years as a practice goalie for the Maple Leafs and Marlies and practiced with Toronto on Sunday, the day after beating them.
“That’s the hockey community. The guys will welcome you, as long as you’re on their team,” the 42-year-old Ontario native said. “They’re going to welcome you and play hard for you. I try to do the same thing for them.”
Ayres has overcome health problems. He twice survived skin cancer and needed a kidney transplant 15 years ago.
“Never thought I was gonna play hockey again at that moment,” he told Sportsnet.ca.
Following the victory, the Hurricanes created Ayres t-shirts for sale. He will receive some of the royalties, with the rest going to a kidney foundation of his choosing, according to the team. He’s been on a media blitz since that performance, giving him little time to enjoy the moment.
“It hasn’t really sunk in too much,” Ayres told NBC Sports Monday morning. “I haven’t really had a chance to even watch [the game]. I see clips here and there. … I guess when I watch it it’ll sink in a little bit more. It’s been crazy the last 36 hours. This has been a lot of fun, and I’m sure it’ll sink in soon.”