After losing James Reimer and Petr Mrazek to injuries, the Carolina Hurricanes turned to an unlikely hero against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. They turned to David Ayres, a 42-year-old Zamboni driver and emergency goalie.
Ayres allowed goals on the first two shots he saw but then settled in, stopping eight shots in a row in a 6-3 Hurricanes win. He is the oldest player to make his NHL debut – an experience that left him “floating on air.”
“They give me a ticket and an all-access pass,” Ayres said on The DA Show, explaining his role as an emergency goalie. “For the last three years, this is what I’ve been doing with these guys in Toronto. I actually stand at the top of the rink in the same spot every time. If I do get called down, I go down and just grab my gear, and I usually get half dressed and sit there and watch the game.”
Ayres said he stands in the same spot out of superstition.
“I’m just a creature of habit,” he said. “Get into that spot, grab a sandwich and watch the game.”
Watching the game and actually playing in a game, however, are two very different things.
“That’s the one thing about it,” Ayres said. “I found out the hardest part about the game on Saturday is that you’re not expected to go in and you don’t think it’s going to happen so you’re not [mentally] prepared. You just want to go in there and watch the game.”
Ayres has been with the Maple Leafs for eight years and has served as a practice goalie for the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.
“They knew me really well, and they just wanted me to be the emergency goalie,” Ayres said of the Maple Leafs. “I kind of stumbled into it.”
Ayres was frustrated after giving up two goals on the first two shots, but his teammates settled him down.
“Two goals on two shots, this is not a good look,” he said. “It could have been a long night, that’s for sure. . . . [But my teammates] just wanted me to have fun. They knew this wasn’t my full-time job. I’m not the full-time goalie for them – or any NHL team. But they know that I skate with the Maple Leafs quite often, and they know that I can stop the puck. They just said, ‘Come over here, let’s get this thing going, and stop the puck. Don’t worry about what’s going on. Don’t worry about the crowd. We’ll score a couple goals, and we’ll get the win.’ We ended up doing it. It was great.”
As for Ayres’ pregame meal?
“I had a reuben sandwich, actually,” he said. “That’s kind of the go-to at that place.”
“Oh, it’s great.”