Toronto Maple Leafs: David Ayres Wins Best Feel-Good Moment of 2020

Carolina Hurricanes, David Ayres (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Carolina Hurricanes, David Ayres (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

The NHL has announced its 2020 Fan Choice Awards winners. Amongst them is David Ayres, the emergency backup goalie who beat the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Toronto Maple Leafs fans won’t soon forget that Saturday night, now commonly known as the game that the Leafs lost to a Zamboni driver. His name is David Ayres and he’s more than just an ice resurfacer.

Ayres is the Operations Manager at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (otherwise commonly referred to as, the old Maple Leaf Gardens).

He is also a practice goalie, mainly helping the Toronto Marlies organization, and isn’t a stranger to being a backup during AHL games.

Explaining the Emergency Back-Up Goalie

For every NHL game, it’s the responsibility of the home team to have an additional goalie in the arena to step-in only if and when a participating team’s two goalies are no longer able to play.

On February 22, 2020, the Toronto Maple Leafs hosted the Carolina Hurricanes and scheduled David Ayres to be in the building as the emergency backup goaltender.

After James Reimer went down with an injury during the first period, and Petr Mrazek was forced into action, Ayres was summoned to the visiting team’s dressing room.

The probability of both rostered goalies suffering injuries that would then make them collectively unable to complete a game is extremely low. But the emergency backup protocol has the call-up ready to go, just in case.

As the second period was underway, Mrazek suffered a game-ending incident of his own. Suddenly, 42-year-old David Ayres was in net for the Hurricanes.

Before his storyline could even take shape, the first two shots Ayres faced were in the back of the net. Expectations are justifiably low for someone playing under those circumstances. With all due respect, they are there to fill a void.

But then his temporary teammates quickly rallied around him, as his comfort level rose to the occasion of being in their crease, and he stopped the next eight that headed his way.

The Carolina Hurricanes went on to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs by a score of 6-3 and Ayres was credited with the victory.

David Ayres – NHL Career Statistics

Provided by View Original Table

Although there are a number of seemingly similar emergency goalie stories, no others have concluded with the athlete achieving a win for their record books. David Ayres is the first, and currently the only, to do so in the NHL.

To say this was a polarizing story throughout the league, let alone Toronto, would be an understatement. Leafs fans were far from happy, while everyone else was enjoying their embarrassment.

The Toronto Maple Leafs were in the midst of a playoff push and losing games wasn’t going to help them secure a spot. Failing to earn two points after a third-string backup became their target was an untimely disappointment.

However, putting things into perspective, if the Toronto Maple Leafs failed to make it into this year’s post-season it wouldn’t have been because of an isolated loss in February.

That fate would be the culmination of far too many wasted opportunities throughout a full season. Claiming the cause to be an individual game is illogical.

Fast-forwarding through the rest of their year, a lot has happened since. The league paused operations and then ultimately concluded the regular-season. And Toronto has secured its place in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

When looking back on the story of Ayres coming into a game for the Hurricanes and beating the Maple Leafs, Toronto fans can now let go of any angst and celebrate a story that deserves to be.

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David Ayres is not only the oldest goalie to win their NHL debut, but he’s also now the recipient of the 2020 Best Feel-Good Moment from the NHL Fan Choice Awards. And we’re ok with that.