It’s not every day a 42-year-old Zamboni driver takes the ice in an NHL game and comes away with the win. And it’s not every day that it’s David Ayres Day in Raleigh, N.C.
But this week, both are true.
After his heroic Saturday night turn in the net for the Carolina Hurricanes — where he stopped eight of 10 Maple Leafs’ shots filling in for the team’s two regular goalies — Toronto Zamboni driver and emergency goalie David Ayres will be honoured Tuesday in Raleigh as the city acknowledges “David Ayres Day.”
Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin announced the honour on Twitter Sunday.
Ayres, who works as a building operations manager at Toronto’s Mattamy Athletic Centre, will be in Raleigh Tuesday night for the Hurricanes’ game against the Dallas Stars. Hopefully he won’t have to be called into the net again.
But if the father of three does get the call, we all know he’s ready now. Ayres suited up for the end of the second period and entire third period during Saturday’s game, and only gave up two goals on route to a 6-3 Carolina victory over Toronto.
He was given a victory shower from his temporary teammates following the win.
“They’re flying me down to Carolina for their game on Tuesday, so I’ll get to spend more time with the guys, which is good,” Ayres told reporters Sunday. “They’re a great team, great organization.”
Give the man a Heritage Minute!
Ayres has become a bit of a Canadian folk hero in the days following his star-making turn. Even Toronto fans — locked in a tight play-off chase that the Ayres victory made even more difficult — had to pay their respects.
Ayres was showered with praise in the Canadian House of Commons Monday. Conservative Barrie-Innisfil MP John Brassard took time to celebrate the surprise goalie.
“He captured the country’s imagination at a time when we needed something, and someone to cheer for,” Brassard said.
WATCH: MPs praise David Ayres in the House of Commons. Story continues below.
Liberal MP Ryan Turnbill, who represents Ayres’ home riding of Whitby also spoke.
“I want to recognize and congratulate one of Whitby’s finest, David Ayres,” Turnbill said. “Being a lifelong Leafs fan, I can never remember a time when I was so proud that the Leafs lost.”
Ayres’ stick from the game will also be displayed in the Hockey Hall of Fame in downtown Toronto.
Ayres, who also coaches for the Whitby, Ont. Wildcats , said he was paid $500 for his efforts. But you can’t put a price on a memory like that.
“Actually, I did think it was a prank,” Ayres said during an appearance on the American television show Today. “When the guy first came into the room he said, ‘Get your stuff on, we’re going out on the ice,’ I said, ‘Are you serious?’”
And while taking the ice in front of 18,000 fans with the game on the line is certainly serious business, the newly minted Canadian hero is certainly having fun in the aftermath of it all.
At one point Ayres thought he would never play hockey again, after needing a kidney transplant in 2004 — with his mother Mary as the donor.
“I was always very proud of you from the beginning, and this has just made me so extremely proud,” his mother told him during a surprise phone call on Today. “I have no words. I couldn’t sleep for the first night. It’s amazing.”
Many advocates and fellow transplant survivors have rallied around Ayres in the following day as a champion for organ donation. Even the U.S. surgeon general tweeted about Ayres, and encouraged people to sign up as organ donors.
The Hurricanes will be selling shirts and jerseys with Ayres’ name and number, with royalties going back to Ayres and a portion of proceeds going to support a kidney foundation in Raleigh.
How does an emergency goalie work?
NHL teams typically have two goalies ready to go on game day. If both go down to injuries during the game however, the team is allowed to dress and play “any available goaltending option” according to NHL rules.
That’s where Ayres comes in. A long-time member of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, Ayres works at a nearby arena as a Zamboni driver for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. He’s been in the pipe as an emergency goalies for both the Leafs and Marlies, but had never been called into action at the NHL level.
It’s David Ayres’ world, and we’re all just living in it.
Who’s got the movie rights?