Sports is awesome sometimes. Hockey is awesome nearly every time. And one of the reasons I say that is because stuff happens in hockey that’s magical, that just does not happen in other sports.
I bring you today the wonderful story of an emergency backup goalie named David Ayers, a 42-year-old Zamboni driver for the Toronto Marlies minor-league hockey team, who on Saturday was forced into an NHL game for the first time with the Carolina Hurricanes and beat the Maple Leafs, 6-3.
In the words of Inigo Montoya, let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
NHL teams dress two goalies for every game, a starter and a backup. In the last few decades there has been a rule that there must be a “house goalie,” or “emergency backup goalie” available to both teams; someone, anyone, who has played goalie at some level before that’s at the arena, and ready to go in if one team sees both of its two goalies who are dressed get injured.
It is extremely rare for this to happen, but Saturday night both of the Hurricanes’ goalies got hurt by the middle of the second period.
So David Ayers, who WORKS for the Maple Leafs as a Zamboni driver and maintenance operations manager at Mattamy Athletic Centre, and has never played sanctioned professional hockey as a goalie, went into the game for the visiting team, Carolina.
Oh, and did I mention he received a kidney transplant in 2004?
This set hockey Twitter on fire, because not only does this never happen, but even more rare that it happens where an employee of an organization goes in to play against his employer.
As soon as it happened, Ayers’ wife, Sarah had the appropriate response on Twitter: “FUCK ME!!!” She wrote in excitement.
Ayers let in two goals in the first few minutes of action, as Carolina’s lead went from 4-1 to 4-3.
But Ayers settled in, and against one of the most powerful offenses in the league, didn’t allow any more goals, making eight saves and Carolina won, 6-3.
So many awesome scenes from this one, including Leafs players high-fiving Ayers as they left the ice after the second period, and the Carolina players going wild for him at the end.
Above, is Ayers talking postgame, and you can tell this was an incredible life memory. The guy is 42 and never played minor league hockey, and now he just won an NHL game!
There is no equivalent to this in any other major team sport; a 3rd string NFL QB or a 3rd-string catcher in baseball is still a professional, and has had years and years of training and practice.
The day before Saturday’s game Ayers was on a Zamboni, cleaning the ice.
Reminder: Ayers isn’t even ON the Hurricanes team, he’s a Zamboni driver for the minor-league Toronto team, the Marlies. And yet look how the guys he met like an hour ago treated him when he walked into the locker room after the win (below).
The Hurricanes are honoring Ayers at their next home game; hell, they ought to just retire his number 🙂
Just so freaking awesome. I love sports.
**Next up today, I haven’t followed boxing for many years, and I didn’t even know there was a huge heavyweight title fight Saturday night between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury until, well, Saturday.
Fury, a 6-foot-9 Irish lug, dominated the fight and beat Wilder, but that’s not why I’m writing about it. I’m telling you about it because after the fight, standing in a Las Vegas ring, Fury took the mic and sang the entire first two verses of Don McLean’s classic “American Pie,” with the crowd joining in.
I’m not sure what my favorite part of this 2-minute video is; it might be the African-American guy behind Fury faking knowing the words but doing his best to keep up, or it could be 143-year-old boxing promoter Bob Arum (standing to the left of Fury) singing to his heart’s delight at the chorus.
But it’s all so, so great. Bravo, Tyson Fury. Bra-vo.
**And finally today, a few words about the Nevada caucus held on Saturday, with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont really opening my eyes (and many others) with a very large victory, comprised of a wide swath of Democratic voters young and old, Caucasian and people of color alike.
I am not giving up the fight for Elizabeth Warren, not by a long shot, and was encouraged by a national poll released Sunday that showed her in second place.
But a few things are on the line next Saturday in the South Carolina primary: Joe Biden absolutely, positively has to win, or his campaign is stunningly just about dead.
Warren must finish in the Top 3, ahead of Pete Buttigieg, or her chances are looking bleak, too.
If Sanders wins South Carolina, and if he does it by a big margin, then he is in commanding position to get the nomination.
If you had told me a year ago, or six months ago, that I’d be typing that sentence, I’d have told you you were nuts. But it’s true.