Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. EBUG: A Star is Born

 

Fifteen years ago David Ayers put his dreams of a professional hockey career on ice – literally. He was lying in a hospital bed in the need of kidney transplant which he got from his mother, Mary. But he stayed connected to the game. He’s the maintenance manager at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (the old Maple Leaf Gardens) and has spent time as a practice goalie with the AHL Toronto Marlies and the NHL Maple Leafs. But the closest he has been to game action is driving the Zamboni between periods for the minor league team.

On most nights that the National Hockey League team is at home the 42-year-old Ayers is in the house as the EBUG, the Emergency Back-Up Goaltender, available to suit up for either side in the case that one of the four goalies is injured. Every once in awhile, an EBUG gets the thrill of sitting on the bench watching the number 2 guy mind the net.

But Saturday night, Carolina’s James Reimer went down with a lower-body injury in the 1st Period. In the 2nd, Peter Mrazek left the goal and collided with Toronto forward Kyle Clifford in a massive concussion-inducing hit. After the first injury, Reid Mitchell, the scouting director for the Leafs texted Ayers and told him to get half-dressed. The Hurricanes equipment manager hurried to put Ayers’ name on the back of a ‘Canes sweater. After the second injury, he was walking through the tunnel on the way to the ice.

Wearing a mask decked out with the Marlies logo and blue pants clashing with the Hurricanes’ reds, Ayers was given some time to warm up. A 4-1 Carolina lead was quickly reduced to a single goal as Toronto scored quickly, showing Ayers that being in net for a game was a lot different than being there in practice. That’s when Erik Haula, the ‘Canes left wing skated over to Ayers to calm him down. “Just have fun. We don’t care if you let 10 goals in.”

But the two goals was all he would allow. The Carolina defense worked hard to keep the puck away from the net and Ayers would stop the next 8 shots he saw. The Zamboni driver, the man with the 0-8 record in the Allan Cup Hockey League would skate off the ice with a 1-0 record in the NHL and he would return to take a curtain call, voted the Number One Star of the game. The hometown crowd was exceptionally kind, cheering every save the Whitby, Ontario native made and gave him a pretty good ovation at the end of Carolina’s 6-3 win.

His new teammates greeted him in the lockerroom with a waterbottle shower and chants of “Dave! Dave! Dave!” Coach Rod Brind’Amour, who was shown on the Hockey Night telecast rolling eyes heavenward when Ayers entered the game, told the press afterward, “It’s pretty special. I told the guys after the game, ‘Thank him, because that just gave [us] an incredible memory.'”

For his efforts, Ayers gets to keep his game sweater and will be paid $500. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper promised to make him an honorary state citizen. The Hurricanes also promised to make a donation to the Kidney Foundation in his name. He’s going to hang his No. 90 sweater up someplace in his home and promises, “I’m going to look at it every day.”

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  1. Gossamer Cat Coolidge

    I’m smiling ear to ear. What a marvelous story to start the day. Hollywood couldn’t have written it better.

    • #1
    • February 23, 2020, at 10:38 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  2. DonWatt Coolidge

    This is exactly why we love sports. In spite of all the sordid events in today’s sports world (and I’m looking at you, Astros), every now and then there’s something that reminds us that the dreams we all had as children sometimes come true.

    Congrats to Mr. Ayers and thanks EJ, for spreading the word.

    • #2
    • February 23, 2020, at 10:43 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  3. Dr. Bastiat Member

    Beautiful!

    • #3
    • February 23, 2020, at 10:49 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  4. Blondie Thatcher

    Ironically, Ayres had to dress for the Charlotte Checkers (the Canes AHL team) at the beginning of February. He didn’t have to go in that night. The Canes are selling t-shirts with Ayres getting royalties and some proceeds going to a foundation of his choice. I’ll link to it if anybody is interested. I love this “Bunch of Jerks”! 

    https://carolinaproshop.com/products/ayres-shirt?variant=31708318072880

    • #4
    • February 23, 2020, at 10:55 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  5. Kevin Schulte Member

    Living the Dream !

    Outstanding.

    • #5
    • February 23, 2020, at 11:01 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  6. Judge Mental Member

    I wonder… is he the oldest rookie ever?

    • #6
    • February 23, 2020, at 11:04 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Scott Foster took the ice for the Blackhawks in 2018. According to this article, he was only the second EBUG to do so.

    Fourteen minutes. Seven saves. Zero goals.

    • #7
    • February 23, 2020, at 11:10 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  8. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    ‘Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour: Looking at the Jumbotron or looking for divine intervention?

    • #8
    • February 23, 2020, at 11:19 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  9. Blondie Thatcher

    Ayres will be in Raleigh Tuesday to sound the siren at the start of the game against Dallas. Should be awesome. 

    Rod has had that look a few other times this year. He’s probably wondering what’s next. 

    • #9
    • February 23, 2020, at 11:34 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  10. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Judge Mental, Secret Chimp: I wonder… is he the oldest rookie ever?

    He is the oldest goaltender to win in his NHL debut. The previous record was held by Hughie Lehman of the Chicago Blackhawks who won his debut at 41 years 21 days in 1926. Last night Ayers was 42 years, 194 days.

    • #10
    • February 23, 2020, at 11:36 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  11. Buckpasser Member
    Buckpasser Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Reason 3,147 why I think Hockey is the best sport!

    • #11
    • February 23, 2020, at 12:58 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  12. Stad Thatcher

    I love stories like this. There have been other goalie subs with similar tales . . .

    • #12
    • February 23, 2020, at 1:13 PM PST
    • 1 like
  13. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge

    Did he still have drive the Zamboni between periods? If not, they should put that in the movie anyway. The ‘Canes defense really stepped up. They only allowed 6 shots in the 3rd, and the Leafs know how to score.

    • #13
    • February 23, 2020, at 4:09 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  14. danok1 Member

    Blondie (View Comment):

    Ayres will be in Raleigh Tuesday to sound the siren at the start of the game against Dallas. Should be awesome.

    Rod has had that look a few other times this year. He’s probably wondering what’s next.

    Nedlikovic and Forsberg called up from Charlotte. That’s what’s next, unless Waddell has something before the trade deadline.

    • #14
    • February 23, 2020, at 4:53 PM PST
    • 1 like
  15. danok1 Member

    Blondie (View Comment):

    Ironically, Ayres had to dress for the Charlotte Checkers (the Canes AHL team) at the beginning of February. He didn’t have to go in that night. The Canes are selling t-shirts with Ayres getting royalties and some proceeds going to a foundation of his choice. I’ll link to it if anybody is interested. I love this “Bunch of Jerks”!

    https://carolinaproshop.com/products/ayres-shirt?variant=31708318072880

    Beat me to it.

    • #15
    • February 23, 2020, at 4:53 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  16. danok1 Member

    Most Leafs fans took this well, remaining calm and rational…

     

    • #16
    • February 23, 2020, at 4:54 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  17. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    danok1 (View Comment):

    Most Leafs fans took this well, remaining calm and rational…

     

    I always imagined that Leafs fans would be a little more laid back than that.

    Maybe “laid back” isn’t the phrase I am looking for …

    I always imagined that Leafs fans would be a little more comatose than that.

    • #17
    • February 23, 2020, at 5:06 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  18. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    • #18
    • February 23, 2020, at 5:07 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  19. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    … and lest any Leafs fans get upset, I’m a Chicago Cubs fan — I know your pain.

    • #19
    • February 23, 2020, at 5:30 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  20. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Percival (View Comment):

    Scott Foster took the ice for the Blackhawks in 2018. According to this article, he was only the second EBUG to do so.

    Fourteen minutes. Seven saves. Zero goals.

    Ayers being the Leaf’s Zamboni driver is the added twist to this story, along with the fact he ended up playing against the team he was employed by and ended up getting the Toronto fans to cheer for Carolina.

    Haven’t heard of a home team’s fans abandoning their guys to root specifically for a goaltender since the Rangers back in the 70s dealt Ed Giocamin to Detroit the day before the Red Wings played at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers’ fans were all-in for the Wings that night, but it was out of anger as opposed to seeing something of themselves in the Zamboni guy being called on to hold the lead for the opposing team.

    • #20
    • February 23, 2020, at 7:10 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  21. The Reticulator Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    Scott Foster took the ice for the Blackhawks in 2018. According to this article, he was only the second EBUG to do so.

    Fourteen minutes. Seven saves. Zero goals.

    Yeah, I thought there was a recent case like that. I went and watched a bunch of YouTube of that one, too, back when it happened. Fun!

    The Progressives are wrong. You don’t always need a trained, certified professional.

    • #21
    • February 23, 2020, at 8:18 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  22. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark Wilson Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    EJHill: would skate off the ice with a 1-0 record in the NHL

    I always assumed the goalies who were most recently on the ice when the winning goal is scored get the W and L. Am I wrong about that?

    • #22
    • February 23, 2020, at 10:26 PM PST
    • 1 like
  23. danok1 Member

    Mark Wilson (View Comment):

    EJHill: would skate off the ice with a 1-0 record in the NHL

    I always assumed the goalies who were most recently on the ice when the winning goal is scored get the W and L. Am I wrong about that?

    No, you are not wrong. In this case, Hurricanes Legend Ayres came in when the score was 3-1 Carolina. He was the goalie when Teuvo Teravainen scored what would be the GWG, which put the Canes up 4-1 (Tavares and Engvall scored for Toronto late in the 2nd to make it 4-3).

    • #23
    • February 24, 2020, at 5:15 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  24. JimGoneWild Coolidge

    Wsj.com’s Jason Day also has an excellent piece on the EBUG. e.j. has more details about some stuff.

    • #24
    • February 25, 2020, at 5:19 PM PST
    • Like
  25. Boss Mongo Member

    That was inspirational. Thank you, EJ.

    • #25
    • February 26, 2020, at 7:28 AM PST
    • 1 like