A 42-year-old man has transformed overnight from a Canadian ice machine operator into a legendary American professional hockey superstar. Huh!?
The man is David Ayres, who reportedly sometimes drives a Zamboni for the Toronto Marlies, a professional ice hockey team that serves as the top affiliate of the National Hockey League (NHL)’s Toronto Maple Leafs.
A Zamboni is an ice resurfacer, i.e., one of those nifty trucks that create the ice for ice hockey teams to play on.
So, what do we know about Dave Ayres?
* He drives Zamboni for the Toronto Marlies.
* He’s a kidney transplant survivor.
* He lives in Whitby.
* He’s a Minor Bantam AA coach with Whitby Wildcats.
* He served as emergency backup goalie for the
Carolina Hurricanes tonight. pic.twitter.com/UlH4wkjLZU
— Sport Durham (@Sport_Durham) February 23, 2020
During a game Saturday night between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Carolina Hurricanes, the latter team’s regular roster goalie, James Reimer, and his back-up, Petr Mrazek, suffered injuries that took them off the rink.
“Reimer was knocked into his own net about three minutes before his exit, which came at 6:10 of the first period, but he initially remained in the game. During the collision, a teammate inadvertently crashed into Reimer’s left side near his hip,” Reuters reported.
Here’s the play that forced James Reimer out of tonight’s game: pic.twitter.com/E4RRXQTGma
— FOX Sports Carolinas (@CanesOnFSCR) February 23, 2020
But soon after Reimer’s replacement, Mrazek also suffered an injury.
Petr Mrazek to the locker room after being taken out by Kyle Clifford pic.twitter.com/YXYDXLEaY5
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) February 23, 2020
This left the “Canes” in a precarious spot, and so with no other options present, the team reached out to the only other man at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena who was prepped for the job, David Ayres.
“A native of Whitby, Ont., Ayres spent most of his career bouncing around the minor leagues before a serious health issue interrupted his playing career. He underwent a kidney transplant in 2004, but the procedure was successful and he made a full recovery,” Sporting News reported.
“He has been in and around the Maple Leafs organization for eight years now. It started when he began working at Ricoh Coliseum (now Coca-Cola Coliseum), home of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, where he’s an arena maintenance worker and occasional Zamboni driver.”
But his primary jobs at the Marlies have reportedly been to “fill in during practice whenever the Marlies or Maple Leafs needed an extra body” and to serve as an “emergency backup,” regardless of the team.
“Ayres is the designated emergency back-up at Scotiabank Arena, prepared to step in for either club if both of their goaltenders are unable to play,” TSN confirmed.
“It’s a rare circumstance that calls someone in Ayres’ position to action, but that’s what happened when, midway through the middle frame Mrazek went chasing after a loose puck above the left circle and was leveled by Kyle Clifford’s punishing hit.”
Watch him making his way onto the rink below:
Here’s something you don’t see every day.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 23, 2020
According to Sporting News, he ROCKED it: “When all was said and done, his first and last game with the Carolina Hurricanes ended in a comfortable 6-3 win. He was named the first star of the game. Tomorrow he’ll be back in practice with the Maple Leafs, the very team he helped defeat.”
Watch him successfully blocking a shot below:
We believe in Dave pic.twitter.com/YnxhFKTLpN
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) February 23, 2020
Ayres loved every minute in the limelight.
“It was awesome,” he reportedly said to reporters after the game concluded. “Obviously time of my life out there. I’ve been on this ice many times without fans, put fans in the mix it’s a whole different game obviously, but, hey once in a lifetime, I’ll take it.”
“These guys were awesome. Actually the spot that settled me down, one of the guys (Erik Haula) said to me, ‘Just have fun. We don’t care if you let 10 goals in.’ That settled me right down and it was great.”
FYI, he did reportedly “let in goals on the first two shots he faced,” according to Sporting News, though after that he settled in.
See some highlights from his performance below:
Continuing his statements, Ayres then described the moment he discovered that he would play.
“Actually I got a bunch of text messages that said, ‘Get in there,’ and someone came into the room and like, ‘Hey, you’d better get dressed, hey, you’re going out there. I was a little shocked, but loving it,” he revealed.
Following the game, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper offered to make Ayres an honorary North Carolina citizen:
I’m ready to make emergency goaltender and zamboni driver David Ayres an honorary North Carolina citizen after courageous @Canes win. Amazing.
— Roy Cooper (@RoyCooperNC) February 23, 2020
Meanwhile, the newfound superstar was given a hero’s welcome in the locker room:
A memory we’ll all have forever pic.twitter.com/LUxqs8o3Wr
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) February 23, 2020
Want to know what makes what happened Saturday that much more amazing? Saturday marked the 40th anniversary of the “Miracle on Ice.” Amazing indeed!
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