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In one of the wildest sports stories of recent memory, David Ayres left his seat in the stands to suit up and eventually get on the ice and face down professional hockey players.
It happened because the Canes’ two goalies both got injured during the Saturday night’s match against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
A little-known NHL rule states “if both listed goalkeepers are incapacitated, that team shall be entitled to dress and play any available goalkeeper who is eligible.”
Saturday night, that emergency goalkeeper was Ayers, a zamboni driver who has been a practice goalie with the Maple Leafs and the club’s American Hockey League affiliate for the last eight years.
“I was standing in the stands, one goalie goes down…they call me to get down, grab my gear and go into the changing room. Then another goalie goes down and that guy comes into the room and he says, ‘Put your gear on, put the rest of your gear on. It’s time to go out there,'” Ayres said.
With Ayres in the net, the Maple Leafs quickly scored two goals, bringing the score to 4-3 in favor of the Canes. But after the rocky start, Ayres settled down and refused to yield another goal for the rest of the game.
At the end of the game he had stopped 8 of 10 shots, and helped the Canes to a 6-3 victory.
“It was awesome obviously it was the time of my life out there. I’ve been on this ice many times without fans, but fans in the mix and its a whole different game,” Ayres said.
Per the emergency goalkeeper rule, Ayres did not get paid for his services (however, the Canes players reportedly did chip some money for him), but since his improbable victory, the Carolina Hurricanes have started selling his #90 jersey on the team’s website.
The proceeds from those jersey sales will go to Ayres. The Hurricanes are also working with him to donate some of the proceeds to a kidney foundation–Ayres had a kidney transplant 15 years ago and was afraid he would never play hockey again.
Dave will be getting royalties, but we are also working with him to identify a kidney foundation that will receive a portion of the proceeds https://t.co/RwSNg12DA4
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) February 23, 2020
Ayres is the oldest goalie in NHL history to win his regular-season debut.
“It was wild, it was fun,” said Ayres,
“It’s pretty special,” Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “I told the guys after the game, ‘Thank him because that just gave (us) an incredible memory.'”
The Carolina Hurricanes announced Sunday that Ayres will officially sound the siren before Tuesday’s game against the Dallas Stars.
That Tuesday is also going to officially be David Ayres Day, accoring to Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin.
The City will be honoring him with a formal proclamation, naming Tuesday “DAVID AYRES DAY” in Raleigh. I’m sorry I can’t be there to present it but I’m thrilled that @Canes fans will have the opportunity to share this joy. #livingthedream https://t.co/ukk9l3VHa6
— Mary-Ann Baldwin (@maryannbaldwin) February 23, 2020
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