This weekend had a very strange even happen in the NHL. A zamboni driver ended up in nets during a regular game, won said game, and managed to set a few records along the way. This was the Leafs vs Hurricanes matchup, and if you follow hockey, you have to really wonder what the Leafs have done to the hockey gods to end up where they are now.
Back on point. David Ayres is a zamboni driver for the Toronto Marlies (AHL, one level under the NHL). He’s 42 years old and played in the juniors. Had a kidney transplant, and plays men’s pickup as a goalie. From time to time, he’ll end up practicing with either Marlies or the Leafs as injuries / health breaks demand. So while he’s a “warm body”, he’s not exactly in NHL form.
In the NHL, teams suit up 2 goalies for each game. The backup is there in case they need to swap due to poor performance or injury. Carolina lost their primary goalie in the first due to a fluke play. Normally when this happens, teams scramble to find a backup based on a local short list from the home team (in this case, Toronto). Sure enough, they get a 1 game deal sorted out with Ayres and his only job is to sit on the bench in case things go really wrong.
Things went really wrong in the second period and Caroline lost their backup to injury. Enter Ayres on the ice, playing AGAINST the team he’s used to practicing with. In any normal world, this would be an advantage for Toronto – a cold goalie, who is not NHL caliber, and who you’ve practices shooting against multiple times. It’s like the lottery.
First two shots go in. Then a wall goes up and Carolina decides to play some serious hockey. Ayres ends up with the win and memories that will last a lifetime.
On one side, there’s a relatively regular guy that gets a break in the big leagues and will enjoy his 15 minutes of fame. He was aware he was on the short list and knew it could happen, so he was ready for it and took full advantage. Good on him.
On the other side there’s the Leafs. A massively squandered opportunity. There’s a very good reason no 3rd string backup goalie has ever recorded a win until this weekend.
That was both one of the most entertaining hockey games I’ve ever seen and one of the most disappointing. Habs won at least (though they have now traded what feels like half the team.)