On Saturday, February 22, the day Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin scored his 700th goal, another hockey story happened that completely overshadowed Ovechkin’s milestone. Any other day in the league, a future Hall of Famer crossing a milestone would dominate the day’s social media coverage. Instead, a regular man went from being known only to his coworkers to a sensation across the sport.
With just under nine minutes remaining in the second period of a Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs game in Toronto, 42-year-old David Ayres entered the game as an emergency backup goalie for the Hurricanes. An emergency backup goalie, or EBUG, is an arena provided goalie that can enter play in the event that a team’s goalie tandem cannot finish the game, regardless of that person’s professional affiliations.
Rule 5.3 explains how Dwayne Roloson would be permitted to play for ANA should he be needed as emergency 3rd goalie. pic.twitter.com/WJPRUMHPuH
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) November 3, 2014
Emergency back-up David Ayres, 42, is now entering the game for #Canes. Unbelievable.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) February 23, 2020
That being said, a dive into Ayres background is what makes this story truly interesting. The father of three is currently employed by the Toronto Maple Leafs organization as a Zamboni driver for the minor league affiliate, the Toronto Marlies. He also underwent a life-saving kidney transplant in 2004.
The fact that an Emergency Backup Goalie was used, while rare, is not necessarily noteworthy. Just more than two years ago, Scott Foster entered into a Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets game, making seven saves to preserve the hawks 6-2 win for the hawks.
Emergency Backup Goalie Dave Ayres is the Zamboni operator at the home of the AHL Marlies.
As per league rule, he is made available to both teams, if the situation warrants it.
Who’s the back-up to the emergency back-up? Good question.
— John Shannon (@JShannonhl) February 23, 2020
Ayres would finish the rest of the game, allowing two goals but stood strong to not only become the first Emergency Goalie to earn a win but would also be victorious against the organization that employs him—the NHL’s CBA currently allows for a team employee to enter into a game in relief of their opponents netminder.
David Ayres (42 years, 194 days) became the oldest goaltender in NHL history to win his regular-season debut. The previous mark was held by Hugh Lehman (41 years 21 days w/ CHI). #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/ttg0E45xdX
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 23, 2020
Moreover, at 42, Ayres is the second oldest NHL player to earn his first career victory.
EMERGENCY WIN: After both Carolina goalies went down with injury, 42-year-old David Ayres came in for the #Hurricanes making eight saves in 28:41 minutes in a 6-3 win over the #Leafs. He is the 2nd oldest player, ever to make their NHL debut. #NHL
— SportsCentre (@SportsCentre) February 23, 2020
Following the game, the reactions to this unique accomplishment were almost overwhelmingly positive. Even the Leafs home crowd gave him an ovation as it was announced he earned the First Star of the Game honors.
Emergency backup goaltender David Ayres is first star of the game and gets an ovation from Leafs fans pic.twitter.com/5ARqtH1Re3
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) February 23, 2020
There was, however, one member of the Leafs nation who didn’t take too kindly to this loss. Sportsnet contributor and best-selling author, Steve “Dangle” Glynn, took to his Youtube page to share his thoughts on the game. His six-minute, scream-filled rant earned him more than three hundred thousand views on the first day it was posted.
In the days following the game, Ayres became the talk of not just the Hockey world, but his name dominated the news cycle. He even made appearances on The Late Show and The Today Show.
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
The NHL’s media department was on the ground following one of his media packed days.
Forever a Hurricane pic.twitter.com/QcdIOmqSKX
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) February 26, 2020
His legend will be forever enshrined into the Hockey Hall of Fame, where his goalie stick will now be featured.
Going on display this Friday with help from the man himself, David Ayres! pic.twitter.com/MvmmSYNXxZ
— Hockey Hall of Fame (@HockeyHallFame) February 27, 2020