After two goaltenders were forced to bow out of a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, the Carolina Hurricanes had to turn to an unlikely source for help: emergency-backup goalie, 42-year-old David Ayres.
Ayres, a building operations manager, practice player for the Toronto Maple Leafs, practice player for the AHL team Toronto Marlies and sometimes zamboni driver, admitted afterwards to ESPN he was shocked by the request. It’s very rare for National Hockey League; a pro team hasn’t called on their emergency-backup goalie or “EBUG” since 2018.
But Ayres managed to make history in more ways than one, becoming the first emergency goalie to win a game and the oldest goalie to win a regular season debut, according to Sports Illustrated. He also stayed on the ice for 28 minutes and 41 seconds, clocking the longest time in a game for an emergency backup.
“Once in a lifetime. I’ll take it,” Ayres said after the game.
Ayres told ESPN that he was nervous when he first took the ice in the second period, when the Maple Leafs went on to score two goals. However, he went on to stop eight more shots, helping the Hurricanes to defeat the Leafs 6 to 3.
Ayres said that his teammates’ support helped to calm him down, especially when he was approached by forward Erik Haula, who told him, “Just have fun. We don’t care if you let 10 goals in.” Ayres recounted to ESPN. “That settled me down.”
Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said later that the game would be a special memory for everyone.
“You kind of think, oh well. How is this going to end up? We just dug in and said we’re not going to lose this game. For him, what a moment he’ll have for the rest of his life. That’s incredible. That’s why you do this,” Brind’Amour said.
Welcome to the NHL, Emergency Back-Up Goalie David Ayres. pic.twitter.com/heoVxfcxnK— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) February 23, 2020
Ayres said in post-game interviews that he had a kidney transplant 15 years ago, and he thought his hockey career would be over. He said that his passion for the game enabled him to keep going.
After the game, Ayres was named the first star (the best of three players recognized at the end of the game) and was honored with a water-bottle shower by his teammates.
“I had no idea I was going to get a shower before I got in the shower…. these guys are awesome,” Ayres said. He added that he plans to hang up his jersey from the game.
Ayre’s wife, Sarah Ayres, also express her excitement on Twitter.
“I am the happiest, proudest woman on the planet because my human got to live out his ultimate dream… I’m also surprised I still have a voice,” she wrote.