Carolina Hurricanes Legend David Ayres isn’t done collecting accolades
The Carolina Hurricanes savior against Toronto, and emergency back-up goaltender David Ayres is the best moment of the year for his efforts in steadying the ship against the Maple Leafs.
Carolina has had a lot of great moments this year. However, the one that took the crown not only for the team but in the NHL as a whole was the story of a 42-year-old Zamboni driver who was the recipient of a kidney transplant that managed to get into an NHL game and beat the team that employs him. By now, you’ve worked out it’s the incredible story of David Ayres.
Ayres was forced into action after James Reimer and Petr Mrazek were forced to leave the game with injuries. Carolina turned to the Emergency Back-Up Goalie or the EBUG. In came number 90, David Ayres. 3-1 up, and only the 3rd time ever an EBUG has gotten into a game, hope seemed bleak. It seemed a matter of time until the killer Leafs offense would overwhelm Ayres.
Ayres would get the first laugh though, with a seemingly routine play on the power-play Carolina were awarded after the hit that knocked Mrazek out of the game.
That routine pass would let the Canes go coast to coast, with Sebastian Aho tucking in a power-play goal to give Ayres a little more breathing room. 3 goals up with 30 minutes left in the game. It was still a big ask for Ayres to shut the door.
Quickly it became evident that Toronto was going to come knocking down everything in their way to get back into the game. John Tavares would get a shot past Ayres to cut the lead down to 2. It was evident on that shot Ayres isn’t a professional goalie, but you couldn’t blame him for it. Stopping pucks from premier players like Tavares isn’t what he’s paid to do.
Pierre Engvall would then cut the lead down to one. A shot that even Reimer or Mrazek would have needed a highlight reel save to stop, and Ayres almost got there. But Toronto has 2 goals on 3 shots, and all the momentum. It seemed like a matter of time until the Leafs tie the game up, as the 2nd period ends.
But something changed in the dressing room. Ayres said one of the team told him to “just relax” because they “didn’t care if he gave up 10”. The team just wanted Ayres to “enjoy it”. Rumor has it this player was Erik Haula. I cannot find anything to back this up though, However, coming out of the intermission, Ayres was a different goalie and the Canes were a different team.
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Carolina would produce one of the best defensive performances I’ve ever seen as a hockey fan. Lanes were always shut, players were diving to block shots. At one point, Jake Gardiner got on his hands and knees behind Ayres to make sure that a shot didn’t leak through. It was an incredible defensive performance. They limited the Leafs to just 7 shots on an EBUG.
Of course, it’s known that the Canes added to their lead, and would walk out of the Scotia-bank Arena 6-3 winners. It would also make David Ayres the first-ever EBUG to win an NHL game. Ayres would see his stick end up in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He would receive a standing ovation from the Maple Leafs fans. He would become an icon in the sport.
What Ayres did also split boundaries. It ended up on mainstream news. From the Steven Colbert show, to the today show, to Good Morning. Ayres had a story that stretched beyond the boundaries of the NHL. With his new star status, Ayres used his fame to promote charities helping those with bad kidney health after he himself received a transplant from his mother.
From Zamboni driver to the Steven Colbert show in 72 hours, from an EBUG to the Hockey Hall of Fame within a week. It’s an incredible story and one that will never be forgotten by fans. One because it’s fun to laugh at the Maple Leafs occasionally. But an average guy steps into an NHL game and shuts down a 55 million dollar offense. It will never be forgotten by Hockey fans.
Question for Cardiac Cane readers: What was your favorite moment of the Ayres story?