Zamboni driver leads Carolina Hurricanes to victory as emergency goalie

Posted at 7:29 AM, Feb 24, 2020

A Zamboni driver made his NHL debut when he took the ice as an emergency backup goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes.

Dave Ayres, a 42-year-old Zamboni driver and arena maintenance worker for the Maple Leafs’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, was at the Scotiabank Arena in downtown Toronto watching Saturday’s Maple Leafs game against the Carolina Hurricanes, when he saw both of the Hurricanes’ goalies go down with injuries.

Ayres, who has also been the regular practice goalie for the Marlies and has attended Maple Leafs practices and skills sessions this past season, then received an emergency call that took him from the arena's stands into the game.

“I had a couple of text messages that told me to get in there,” Ayres told reporters. “I was in the media room by myself and a guy came in and said, ‘Get going. Get ready.’”

But the emergency call didn’t phase Ayres once he stepped onto the ice, as he stopped a total of eight shots and helped the Hurricanes to a stunning 6-3 win over the Leafs.

Ayres is the only the NHL's second emergency backup goalie to enter a game over the past three seasons, and he became the oldest goalie in NHL history to win his regular-season debut. He was named the No. 1 star after the game and the crowd in Toronto gave him a loud ovation.

“It was awesome. I had the time of my life out there,” he told Sportsnet after the game.

Ayers, who is also a kidney transplant survivor, wasn't sure if he would ever play hockey again following the transplant. He's been a practice goalie for the Leafs and Marlies for the last eight years.

As a backup goalie, Ayres could have stepped in for either team if needed. He was paid $500 for the game and was allowed to keep his game-worn jersey.