David Ayres was a complete unknown to even the most ardent hockey fan before this past weekend. But after his performance as the emergency backup goalie on Saturday, Carolina Hurricanes fans won't soon forget him. And on Tuesday, Ayres was treated like a hometown hero in Raleigh.
First, a little explanation. National Hockey League teams travel to away games with two goalies. A starter and a backup. But in rare cases, both can suffer an injury, leaving the away team without someone to put between the pipes. That's why every NHL city has a designated emergency backup goalie, or "EBUG." It's a guy that's usually on staff for the home team, but is contracted to play for either team in goal if needed.
And that's exactly what happened to David Ayres in Toronto on Saturday when both of the Hurricanes goalies were forced out of the game.
John Forslund, the Canes play-by-play voice, broke the news after Petr Mrazek went down: "We have word that Dave Ayres, 42 years of age, emergency support goaltender, will be forced into service here for the Hurricanes."
In that moment, what started as just another day for Ayres would become one of his most memorable. He let in the first two shots he faced, but then saved the next eight, and Carolina defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3.
In the locker room after the game, Canes Head Coach Rod Brind'Amour told the team that memories like this one don't come around every day.
"That's a memory that I'm gonna have forever," he said. "The way you guys played in that third period, for you, and the way you played for us."
On Tuesday, Ayres arrived in Raleigh, his first-ever visit to the state. Governor Roy Cooper made him an honorary North Carolinian, and Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin declared Tuesday as "David Ayres Day" in the city.
At a press conference yesterday morning, he said the days had been a whirlwind.
"I don't even know the time right now," said Ayres. "It's been a lot, for sure, but the guys from the Hurricanes have taken such good care of me."
Ayres had a kidney transplant 15 years ago and hopes to use some of his newfound fame to raise awareness. But on Tuesday night he had one last task to perform, sounding the siren that gets the home crowd fired up before every Hurricanes home game.
— Evan Sery (@evanserytv) February 26, 2020