Heroes and Heels is a weekly NHL column highlighting the heroes and villains of the last week of hockey. This week, a certain EBUG has stolen our hearts.
The last week or so of hockey news has been dominated by the NHL trade deadline, which is the last major barrier of the season before the upcoming playoff push. Now that teams can no longer bulk up their rosters for an impending postseason run, the real crunch of the season begins.
Usually around this time of year, the doldrums of the hockey season that sets in after the holidays begin to fade into waves of activity. Most hockey teams at this stage have just 20 or so games left to play in the 2019-20 season, meaning every point counts and every game matters.
These next few weeks often showcase what teams are made of, and with the stakes so high, games start to really finally matter again. Time to brush those cobwebs out — fun hockey games are right around the corner.
Hero: Dave Ayres
How I feel about emergency backup goaltender Dave Ayres is basically akin to that Brooklyn 99 meme: “I’ve only had Dave Ayres for a day and a half, but if anything happened to him I would kill everyone in this room and then myself.”
The 42-year-old EBUG burst onto the scene on Saturday night for the Carolina Hurricanes in a desperate situation. The Hurricanes lost both starter James Reimer and backup Petr Mrazek to injury halfway through their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, causing the in-arena EBUG (and zamboni driver!) to be pulled into the game.
Ayres then proceeded to make eight saves — allowing just two goals during his 29 minutes of ice time — to carry the Hurricanes to 6-3 victory. During his time on the ice, and afterwards, Ayres became an instant sensation online — as an EBUG often becomes — as the Hurricanes rallied around the netminder and won the game with a tight defensive effort.
The story became national news and Ayres was even featured on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The Hurricanes are also looking to give some of the funds from the shirts they’re selling with his name and number on the back to a kidney foundation — as Ayres is a kidney transplant survivor.
On Tuesday, the governor of North Carolina made Ayres an honorary North Carolinian for giving “North Carolina hockey fans a memory that we will never forget.”
On the contrary, Ayres’ story transcended the sport and became an incredibly heartwarming story of triumph and camaraderie. Ayres will go down in history as the oldest goaltender to make their NHL debut, and win! The story was the most talked about narrative that day, even beating out the major talking point of Alex Ovechkin hitting the 700 career goal mark that happened earlier that same Saturday.
Hockey is made better by the stories like Ayres, which surpass the sport all-together and become just a human interest story at its heart. Ayres will be forever remembered by the hockey community at large, not just for his on-ice performance but also for the wide-eyed gusto with which he approached the entire experience.
So to the critics and naysayers of the Ayres story, we’ll let the Hurricanes themselves do the talking:
Heel: The failed Zach Parise trade
On Monday during the trade deadline, social media went aflutter with the possible news that the Minnesota Wild were set to deal 35-year-old forward Zach Parise to the New York Islanders in exchange for Andrew Ladd. The pair had reportedly waived their no-trade clauses, and a deal was set to be complete once the teams found a way to make the complicated deal work.
Fans waited. The 3 p.m. ET deadline drew closer. Then hit, and promptly expired. At the end of the day, no Parise deal was made, leaving fans wondering, what went wrong? Why were we denied such a surprise, out-of-left-field transaction that would have shaken up the cores of two hockey clubs?
Signs point to the salary cap tango both the Wild and the Islanders would have had to dance should they have traded their respective forwards as the reason this fell apart. Parise has five years left on his contract with a $7.54 million AAV while Ladd has three years left at a $5.5 million AAV.
Both Wild general manager Bill Guerin and Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello would not elaborate on what turned the deal sour, but given the quality reporting behind bringing this possible deal to light, there was definitely smoke with this fire.
And it’s a shame this deal never actualized into this reality! The 2020 NHL trade deadline was quite frantic, with over 30 deals being made by the time the 3 p.m. deadline hit. However, there were no real surprises this deadline. The players that moved were ones we all expected to move, though Chris Kreider‘s extension threw a wrench into the mix partway through the day.
When the news of Parise’s possible movement floated down the Twitter timeline on Monday, hockey fans went bananas at the tease. Parise’s 13-year, $98 million deal has essentially been unmovable for the Wild, who signed the forward and defenseman Ryan Suter to the exact same contract in 2012 as a package deal.
“I don’t know how close it got, I really don’t. Hey, I love it here. I always have.”
The possibility of having a surprise blockbuster trade of that magnitude come down the pipeline on trade deadline day was exactly the right amount of spice the day needed for hockey fans to go wild. Instead, however, the deadline came and went and we had no blockbuster Parise trade to speak of.
Honestly, I feel cheated. Bamboozled. Swindled. Hoodwinked. We had a real curveball thrown our way on Monday and instead of squaring up to hit a home run, we watched it pass us by as we struck out looking.
Parise, to his credit to calm Wild fans, told reporters on Tuesday that the deal was not of his making and that he’s not demanding a trade out of Minnesota.
Still, we lost something we didn’t really know we even had on Monday with this disappearing Parise deal. This time next trade deadline, we may not even remember this failed exchange, as it will likely be lost to the annals of history. Thanks, whichever front office member in Minnesota or New York that nixed this trade.
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