Toronto zamboni driver David Ayres soars to global fame after unexpected NHL debut
Zamboni driver-turned-Carolina Hurricanes backup goalie David Ayres, who made his NHL debut this weekend at the tender age of 42, is more than a shining reminder that anything is possible: he's Canada's latest celebrity export.
Less than 48 hours after being tapped as an emergency goaltender during Saturday night's Toronto Maple Leafs game at Scotiabank Arena — and then stopping eight consecutive shots for the away team — Ayres is a full-blown media sensation.
The Whitby, Ontario, native appears to be in New York City right now doing the U.S. talk show circuit, with appearances on The Today Show and Good Morning America already under his belt as of 10 a.m. on Monday morning.
It all started with the consecutive injuries of regular Carolina Hurricanes goaltenders James Reimer and Petr Mrazek on Saturday night.
You see, the NHL requires every home team to have an emergency backup goalie on hand during games, for use by either team, in the case that one is left without a goaltender.
Ayres has been that person for the past three years at Scotiabank Arena, though his regular job involves ice resurfacing and arena maintenance for the Maple Leafs' AHL affiliate, The Toronto Marlies.
Fairytale stuff ✨— Premier Sports 📺 (@PremierSportsTV) February 24, 2020
👉 42yr old Zamboni driver David Ayres was called from the stands to come in as emergency goalie for @CanesPR
👉 Stars in 6-3 win over @MapleLeafs - making 8 saves
👉 Becomes oldest NHL goalie to win on debut#MondayMotivation
When his big moment came this weekend, Ayres initially thought it was a joke.
"I did think it was a prank," said Ayres on The Today Show this morning.
"When the guy first came into the room he said 'get your stuff on, we're going out on the ice' and I said 'are you serious?' and he said 'yeah, no, take your time, but you're going out!"
“Emergency Back-Up Goalie” David Ayres went to an NHL game expecting to watch and get a bite to eat. He wound up getting the win. Columnist @jasongay talked to hockey’s overnight sensation: https://t.co/F12W177GwI— WSJ Sports (@WSJSports) February 24, 2020
Ayres suited up for the Carolina Hurricanes roughly halfway through the game and, after letting two shots through, wound up stopping all eight of the others that came his way.
His performance was credited for helping the Hurricanes to a 6-3 victory over the Maple Leafs, and he was subsequently named the game's first star.
Ayres is now the oldest goalie in NHL history to win his regular-season debut game, and the stick he used during Saturday night's game will be displayed in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"It was wild, it was fun," said Ayres to reporters following his win. "The crowd in Toronto was unreal. Even though I was on the other team they were so receptive... Every time I made a save I could hear them cheering for me."
David Ayres went from 42-year-old Zamboni driver to emergency backup goalie to NHL game winner— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) February 23, 2020
What a story, what a celebration for the Carolina Hurricanes pic.twitter.com/PPOqF4WX7b
Ayres was paid $500 for the game as per the NHL's rules, and was also allowed to keep the jersey he wore during the game.
The Hurricanes were over-the-moon with how he played, greeting Ayres with a champagne shower in their dressing room after the game and are flying him to Carolina to sound their siren on Tuesday.
"The man, the myth, the legend," wrote the Hurricanes on Twitter of Ayres on Saturday night.
The team's Twitter bio also currently reads "DAVID AYRES THE GOAT."
We'll never forget last night in Toronto pic.twitter.com/K6mp2c7Jpu— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) February 23, 2020
In the days since his miraculous NHL debut, Ayres has captured the attention of people all over the world — and the more of his story that comes out, the more interested everyone is.
"There would have been a Tragically Hip song about David Ayres. In Gord Downie's memory, somebody needs to write it," commented one fan on Twitter.
Others are joking that perhaps the Leafs should hire Ayres as a goalie to help them win more often — though Ayres himself told TMZ that he isn't interested in being an NHL player.
Zamboni Goalie David Ayres Not Interested In Tryouts with Other NHL Teams https://t.co/E38ktJxN2d— TMZ (@TMZ) February 24, 2020
As it turns out, Ayres had been playing hockey his entire life up until 2004, when he became ill and required a kidney transplant.
It's been 15 years since Ayres received a kidney from his mother, and eight years since he started filling in as a practice goalie for the Toronto Marlies and the Maple Leafs.
Both he and his mom appeared on The Today Show this morning.
Fifteen years ago, David Ayres, the Zamboni driver who recently played in an NHL game, needed a kidney transplant and received the kidney from his mother.— TODAY (@TODAYshow) February 24, 2020
We surprised him with a call from his mom this morning! pic.twitter.com/wU9CFkzbdC
With 106,704 views/clicks last week, we believe David Ayres is the most clicked player profile ever during a single week.— Eliteprospects (@eliteprospects) February 24, 2020
Those who want to celebrate this Canadian heritage moment forever can now even buy an official David Ayres Hurricanes shirt.
Ayers himself will be getting royalties from sales of the shirts, according to the Hurricanes, who are also working with him "to identify a kidney foundation that will receive a portion of the proceeds."
"It's stories like this that inspire young athletes to keep chasing their dream. Great work on the Hurricanes on appreciating Dave Ayres on his undefeated NHL record," wrote one fan this morning in response to news of the commemorative garment.
"You know I already bought my shirt!"
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