Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and this week 42-year-old new National Hockey League player David Ayres had greatness thrust upon him and ultimately produced a star turn in a National Hockey League game in Toronto, Canada.
Remarkably the opposing team’s practice goaltender was surprisingly called into action, despite initially, simply, attending the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs as a casual observer with his wife in the crowd at the Scotiabank Arena. The shot-stopper, and Ontario native, has been the Leafs’ practice goalie for the past eight years.
Ayres had been in fact used to being on ice - not as a player, but as the driver of a resurfacer, known as a ‘Zamboni’ after its inventor and engineer. Those unfamiliar with the sport might well remember the machine from the films Deadpool and For Your Eyes Only, on both occasions implemented as a form of weapon. Ayres drives the Zamboni at the Coca-Cola Coliseum, home of the Leafs’ affiliate AHL outfit the Toronto Marlies.
Game night, Ayres was ready to settle down with the missus to witness the 60-minutes of fast and furious skate action. However, a freak double injury to both the first-choice goalies, James Reimer and Petr Mrazek, forced Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour’s hand to reach to the very bottom of the barrel. Ayres - who had had to undergo a kidney transplant from his mother 16 years ago, damaging his professional career prospects - was plucked from the stands, got suited and booted and was down the tunnel to take his place in front of the 6’ x 4’ net.
Though it initially might have looked like there was a good reason he was simply a practice goalie, with him conceding two goals from the first two shots he came up against, Ayres shook off the cobwebs to go on and produce eight consecutive stops, six in the final third. Less fish out of water, more penguin on ice. His performance allowed the Hurricanes to achieve a memorable 6-3 victory over the Maple Leafs, having come on with the score at 3-1.
Ayres thus became the first emergency goaltender to record a win in NHL’s 102-year-old history, as well as the oldest goaltender to win his NHL regular-season debut.
“It’s not often in a game that you get tied to a great memory,” said Brind’Amour during the post-match revelry in the locker room, “That’s why you do this.”
So Toronto got beaten by their own Zamboni driver, Ayres collected a $500 appearance fee, and got to keep his kit, as well as an autographed goalie stick, and a bottle of wine signed by Brind’Amour. “It was wild, it was fun,” Ayres told Canadian press after the match.
Sport just continues to make you smile, doesn’t it?