Dan Ayres, a 42-year-old Zamboni driver, was tapped to play as an emergency backup goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes—and won his first NHL game. In a twist, Ayres was actually playing against his home team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Yikes!
Ayres was called to play after both the team’s goalies were injured and had to leave the game. And in an act of good sportsmanship, he helped the Hurricanes in their 6-3 win by blocking eight of ten shots in the last 30 minutes of the game.
This interview says it all.
Dave Ayres will have a memory for a life time. pic.twitter.com/upqccSjVVm
— NHL (@NHL) February 23, 2020
“I was nervous for the whole second period, as you can tell I couldn’t stop a puck if I had to in the second,” Ayres said. “But I told the boys, ‘When I come out in the third I’ll be ready to go.'”
Ayres told reporters that he had been a designated backup goalie in the past, but this was the first time he had ever been forced to play. The Carolina players told Ayres to just have fun, and Ayres said the chill, supportive attitude from his temporary team—as well as the Toronto crowd—will be what he remembers most fondly.
“These guys, how great they were to me, how fun,” Ayres said. “The crowd in Toronto is unreal, even though I was on the other team they were so receptive and so awesome. Every time I made a save I could hear them cheering for me.”
Ayres is the second-oldest player to make their professional debut in NHL history. In addition to driving the Zamboni and filling in during practices for the Leafs, Ayres said he coaches an amateur hockey team. He is also a kidney transplant survivor. The Today Show recently shared that they surprised Ayres with a call from his kidney donor—his mom!
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.
We surprised him with a call from his mom this morning! pic.twitter.com/wU9CFkzbdC
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) February 24, 2020
On Twitter, the Carolina Hurricanes announced that it would sell a player T-shirt with Ayres’ name on it—and the money is going to a cause close to his kidney.
“Dave will be getting royalties, but we are also working with him to identify a kidney foundation that will receive a portion of the proceeds,” they said.