The 42-year-old Zamboni driver had to enter an NHL game for the Carolina Hurricanes against his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs after two goaltenders went down with injuries. As the emergency backup netminder, he was forced into game action and did not disappoint, stopping eight of 10 shots in 29 minutes of play to get the win against the organization that employs him.
It was a surreal (and embarrassing) moment for the Maple Leafs, who regularly practise with him in Toronto. But it was also an achievement decades in the making for Ayres, who has shot into celebrity status since his incredible victory against all odds.
The victory made him the oldest goaltender in NHL history to win his regular season debut, according to the league’s public relations department. And it also made him a star not just in the Canadian sports world, but south of the border, too.
Ayres made an appearance Monday on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” where he had some fun stepping up to the plate one more time.
This time, he filled in for band leader Jon Batiste as part of a comedy bit.
“Hey Stephen, Jon got hurt so I’m in now,” Ayres told Colbert.
“Well thanks for filling in, David,” Colbert replied. “Could you play me over to the next segment?”
That’s when the 42-year-old wearing a Canes cap and jersey started playing the keyboard with his goalie blocker and glove on. Surprisingly, the piano slide actually sounds pretty good with hockey equipment on.
“That’s good, thank you,” Colbert responded.
“The Late Show” also shared footage of Colbert spraying the emergency goalie with water as he triumphantly thrusted his fists up in the air as if he just won the Stanley Cup.
“David Ayres is here to save the day yet again!” the late-night show wrote on Instagram.
The late-night melody skit follows a similar experience on Canadian TV where Ayres was asked to step in to replace TSN host James Duthie during the network’s NHL trade deadline coverage.
“Get that emergency guy again,” an injured Duthie said in the video.
“Seriously, again?!” Ayres responded before popping out of his seat and walking towards the on-air desk where he turns to the camera and said:
“This is the real dream. TradeCentre starts now!”
And that’s not all the coverage this Zamboni driver is getting. He also appeared on the “Today” show Monday where he was interviewed about his experience, which they dubbed the new “miracle on ice” featuring a “player who kept his cool and delivered.”
During the interview, Ayres spoke about the whirlwind of emotions he experienced before and during the rare event.
“I was confident until I hit the ice, and then I was terrified,” he joked.
Ayres later revealed he received a kidney transplant from his mother when he was 27 and that his NHL debut wouldn’t have been possible if not for her.
That’s when the morning show surprised him with a guest appearance: his mom.
“David, you know what, I always was very proud of you from the beginning and this has made me so extremely proud,” she told her son. “I have no words. I couldn’t sleep for the first night.”
While Ayres was able to stop most of the shots he faced against the Leafs, he couldn’t stop the flow of tears from his eyes as he listened to his mother heap praise on him on national TV.
“Come on, mom,” he said at one point while wiping a tear.
“It’s all about him,” she added.
And despite making the media rounds, it isn’t over for him yet.
Ayres is spending Tuesday celebrating “David Ayres Day” in Raleigh, N.C.
Earlier in the day, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper proclaimed Ayres an “honorary North Carolinian” in honour of his remarkable night.
Talk about living the dream!