Learn about the extraordinary night when David Ayres, a Zamboni driver, became an unlikely NHL hero. Discover the captivating and inspiring story behind his historic moment.
Screenshot: NHL

Hollywood couldn’t have written a better script. In fact, if you approached agents with such a pitch, they’d throw you out of their office, Ari Gold-style.

February 22nd, 2020. A moment in the world of professional hockey that defied all expectations and captivated the hearts of fans everywhere.

David Ayres, a 42-year-old Zamboni driver and practice goalie for the Toronto Marlies, stepped onto the ice as an emergency backup for the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and made history.

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David Ayres’ Unforgettable Triumph

Where to begin with the incredible unlikelihood of this story? Ayres, who had never played a minute in the NHL before this fateful night, was called into action when both Hurricanes goaltenders, James Reimer and Petr Mrazek, were injured during the game.

With no other options, the Hurricanes turned to Ayres, who signed a one-game contract with the NHL and took the ice as the emergency backup goalie.

At 8:41 left in the 2nd period with a 3–1 lead, the Zamboni driver hit the ice. He was facing the Toronto Maple Leafs who would end up being champions of the North Division that season. Carolina would tack on another goal shortly thereafter making it 4-1.

Perhaps it was jitters. Perhaps it was the fact that, as the announcers state in the video, “the highest level of hockey he has played is Junior B, which is a step below Junior A, which is a step below Major Junior.”

Regardless, Ayres immediately gave up two goals to the Leafs, and the game was now a nailbiter, 4-3.

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That’s When He Locked In

It was at this point that David Ayres got his focus back. With 4:50 still left in the second period, the ‘Canes were barely clinging to a one-goal lead.

But the 42-year-old Zamboni driver would stop his next eight shots, including one on a Leafs power play, and Ayres and his teammates for one day would skate off the ice with a 6-3 win.

His remarkable performance made him an overnight sensation and earned him the title of the oldest goalie to win a regular season debut in NHL history.

Check out the locker room scene after the game.

If that wasn’t enough, remember when we mentioned that David Ayres was the maintenance guy for the Marlies?

The Marlies are the American Hockey League affiliate of the Maple Leafs. Meaning, this man went out there and won his NHL debut against the team he technically works for.

In fact, Ayres was wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs t-shirt under his Hurricanes uniform during the game.

Ayres was also the recipient of a kidney transplant back in 2004.

Oh, and remember when we said Hollywood wouldn’t believe a story like this? Disney was reportedly interested in making a movie about the David Ayers story.

That story serves as a reminder that anything is possible in the world of sports, as long as you commit to hard work and dedication.

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