Feb 24, 2020 - Sports

Zamboni driver steps in as emergency goalie for NHL's Carolina Hurricanes

Close up of a zamboni
Photo: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

When both Carolina Hurricanes goaltenders left Saturday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs with injuries, Dave Ayres came in as the emergency backup — and stopped eight of 10 shots he faced to seal a 6-3 win for Carolina.

Why it matters: Ayres, a 42-year-old Zamboni driver and practice goalie, had watched the first period from the stands with his wife. Minutes later, he was skating onto the ice in a real NHL game.

How it works: NHL teams dress two goaltenders and typically would call on a minor league goalie due to injury or other emergency.

  • If logistics make that impossible, teams are allowed to dress and play any available goaltending option, which is why local goalies with ties to the team are often on call.
  • Emergency goalies are available to either team, which explains why Ayres suited up for the Hurricanes despite being working for the Leafs. (Can you imagine if this was a super important game and he was facing his own team?)

What they're saying: Ayres, whose own hockey career was derailed by a kidney transplant 15 years ago, was asked what he'll remember most from the game.

"These guys. How great they were to me. The crowd in Toronto was unreal. Even though I was on the other team, they were so receptive. Every time I made a save I could hear them cheering for me."
— Dave Ayres

The big picture: Ayres adds his name to a long and storied list of emergency NHL goalies — a list that includes an accountant, a police officer, a bank manager, a grad student, a statistician and a vending machine worker.

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