Carolina Hurricanes Deployed an 42-Year-Old Emergency Goalie, and Won

Dave Ayres became the oldest man to win his first NHL game

Dave Ayres in his first NHL game
Emergency backup goalie Dave Ayres during his first NHL game appearance.
Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images
By Luis Paez-Pumar / February 23, 2020 3:24 pm

One of the more fun, if under-utilized, rules in the NHL is the existence of an “emergency backup goaltender. The “EBUG” can only enter the game if both normal goalies are unavailable through injury, and that’s exactly what happened to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, when both James Reimer and Petr Mrazek were knocked out of their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Enter 42-year-old Dave Ayres.

Ayres made his first NHL appearance on Saturday, subbing on halfway through the second period, and making history in the process. After conceding goals on the first two shots he faced, he went on to save the next eight, as the Hurricanes won 6-3, making Ayres the oldest man to win his first NHL game.

That he is older than most NHL players are when they take the ice is only half the story, though. Ayres is also a zamboni driver in Toronto, and has served as the practice goalie for…the Maple Leafs. Maybe he picked up some tips on how to stop their shots in practice, but either way, a 42-year-old who had never played professionally took the ice and helped lead his team to victory.

Unsurprisingly, Ayres was hyped up after the match, giving a charming seven-minute interview to the press where he said he was nervous in the second period when he came on, but he settled down in the third:

For his appearance, Ayres made $500, along with his game-worn jersey and the game puck. The Hurricanes also announced that they would sell shirts with Ayres’s name and number on them, and will give the proceeds to the unlikely hero of Saturday’s game, as well as a kidney foundation of his choice (Ayres had a kidney transplant in 2004, which put his hockey career in jeopardy.)

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