Zamboni Driver Lives the Dream, Saves the Game

After injuries to Carolina's goalies, emergency backup earns the victory
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2020 9:27 AM CST
Zamboni Driver Lives the Dream, Saves the Game
Carolina Hurricanes right wing Nino Niederreiter (21) and center Martin Necas (88) speak to Hurricanes emergency goalie David Ayres as he takes the ice against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second period Saturday.   (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

It was a break-the-glass moment. Halfway through the second period of the Hurricanes-Maple Leafs game Saturday, two Carolina goalies were injured and gone for the night. That meant the Hurricanes, with half the game left to play, had no goalie. But the NHL requires that someone be at each game who can fill in as goalie for either team in case of emergency—a call that hardly ever comes. Watching the game Saturday was David Ayres, 42, who most often is on the ice as the Zamboni driver for Toronto's AHL team, per the News & Observer. He put on the pads and a Canes jersey. In the rest of the second period, Ayres allowed two goals on three shots. But in the third period, per NBC, he shut out Toronto, one of the league's highest-scoring teams, stopping seven shots. Carolina won, 6-3. The emergency backup goalie got credit for the win and was named the No. 1 star.

Nobody went easy on Ayres. Between periods, Carolina's coach Rod Brind'Amour told him, "Stop the puck, buddy." He also warned him that "we were going to go after it in the third and not sit back ... and you're going to have to make a save or two." Ayres said afterward that "obviously, that second period was a little shaky, but I told the boys in the dressing room, 'Once we come out for the third, I'll be settled down and ready to win this one.'" Ayres, who's had a kidney transplant, has played in practices, per ESPN, but he said it's much different playing before thousands of fans. The Toronto crowd cheered him at the end, though he was playing for the other team. "I had the time of my life out there," Ayres said. He was paid $500, as the league stipulates, and was given his team jersey. "What a moment for him," a teammate said. "Something he'll never forget, and something we won't, either." (More NHL stories.)

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