Something spectacular happened on Saturday night in Canada.
David Ayres, a 42-year-old Toronto Marlies Zamboni driver, suited up as an emergency backup goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes and helped them beat the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ayres joined mid-game after both Hurricanes goalies were injured during the first and second periods.
It would be easy to make this a story about how the hapless Leafs got beaten by someone who they employ, but instead, let’s talk about how Ayres has inspired a nation.
Ayres has become the oldest goalie in NHL history to win his regular-season debut and the first emergency backup to ever record a victory. He let in two goals in the second period, before finding his bearings and blocking every shot he faced in the third period.
David Ayres (42 years, 194 days) became the oldest goaltender in NHL history to win his regular-season debut. The previous mark was held by Hugh Lehman (41 years 21 days w/ CHI). #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/ttg0E45xdX— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 23, 2020
Ayres had a kidney transplant 15 years ago and wasn’t sure if he would ever play hockey again. Look at him now.
People were inspired by this Hollywood-worthy story of perseverance, beating the odds and following your dreams.
David Ayres' impossible story matters because he is you, me, us. He is the embodiment of our every foolhardy childhood dream, of every fond wish and hope. He is our unrealized future, one of the reasons we fell in love with sports. He is a reason we love sports still.— Michael Farber (@MichaelFarber3) February 23, 2020
In many ways—climate, politics, anger—the world is in a hole right now. But last night inspiration and dream making were on high alert when 42-year old #DavidAyres suited up for the @Canes. What an unbelievably great story. https://t.co/dEEL4qcQJb— Baby Nut Dirk (@DirkSoeterik) February 23, 2020
The emergency goaltender is one of the coolest traditions in sports. Congrats David Ayers, if the @Canes happen to win the cup, they better send you a ring! My inner hockey kid is jealous. #davidayres https://t.co/jGSEGRXsv4— Brian DeViteri (@bsbeamer) February 23, 2020
Many people’s inner hockey kids were jealous seeing Ayres play out many childhood dreams.
Zamboni Driver, David Ayres lived out my childhood dream tonight!!! 😁 Here’s my watercolour sketch of his amazing save against our Maple Leafs! #davidAyres #zombonidriver #mapleleafs #carolinahurricanes @35Ayres @MapleLeafs @Canes pic.twitter.com/TTLMs4KJ98— MIKE NGUYEN ART (@mikenguyenart) February 23, 2020
The dream of every emergency pick up goalie who play in rec leagues in GTA and across Canada during winter times, realized by emergency goalie #DavidAyres, wearing @MapleLeafs shirt under his @Canes uni, in locker room after he came in & helped @Canes beat @MapleLeafs last nite. https://t.co/AHRn9imRl0— Jack Borenstein (@JackJaybee) February 23, 2020
And even many Leafs fans showed their support for his spectacular feat.
“the leafs lost to their own zamboni driver in net” will be the new 1967 for years and years and years— dom luszczyszyn (@domluszczyszyn) February 23, 2020
someone sacrificed their jersey for Ayres pic.twitter.com/4OJFpiLwNa— Ailish Forfar (@ailishforfar) February 23, 2020
David Ayres realizing he’s about to beat his favorite team, but he got credited with the win. pic.twitter.com/hpwW3hDBfG— Vincent Perricone (@VPerricone92) February 23, 2020
David Ayres coming into work on Monday pic.twitter.com/2Bf9ZoFOIE— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) February 23, 2020
David Ayres just got a shot on goal and I've been a Leaf fan for like 30+ years so I was mildly shocked it didn't go in.— Down Goes Brown (@DownGoesBrown) February 23, 2020
Ayres’ new teammates welcomed him into the locker room after the game with a special shower.
A memory we'll all have forever pic.twitter.com/LUxqs8o3Wr— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) February 23, 2020
The governor of North Carolina has even offered to make Ayres an honourary citizen.
I’m ready to make emergency goaltender and zamboni driver David Ayres an honorary North Carolina citizen after courageous @Canes win. Amazing.— Roy Cooper (@RoyCooperNC) February 23, 2020
Ayres’ wife Sarah is perhaps the person most excited about her husband’s incredible accomplishment.
I am the happiest, proudest woman on the planet because my human got to live out his ultimate dream.— 🇨🇦Sarah Ayres🇨🇦 (@35Ayres) February 23, 2020
...I’m also surprised I still have a voice. https://t.co/qTglhZypG5
The official Hurricanes Twitter account changed its description to read “DAVID AYRES THE GOAT.” The team is also selling Ayres merch, and has said that a portion of the proceeds will be going to a kidney foundation.
Ayres says he’s supposed to practice with Leafs tomorrow. He’s going to bring his game puck.— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) February 23, 2020
This is the second time this month Ayres has represented a team from North Carolina. He served as an AHL emergency backup for the Charlotte Checkers on Feb. 1 when they played against the Marlies.
42-year-old Dave Ayres will take the ice as our emergency back up goalie— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) February 23, 2020
Ayres served as EBUG for the Charlotte Checkers on Feb. 1 against the Marlies
Ayres joined the game after Hurricanes goalie James Reimer left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury and was replaced by Petr Mrazek. Mrazek later collided with Leafs forward Kyle Clifford. He was escorted off the ice, leading to Ayres’ moment of glory.
The Whitby, Ont., native had nothing but kind words for his teammates.
“These guys were awesome,″ he said. “They said to me, ‘Have fun with it, don’t worry about how many goals go in, this is your moment, have fun with it.’”
The Hurricanes ultimately won the game, in part thanks to Ayres’ efforts, 6-3.
We'll never forget last night in Toronto pic.twitter.com/K6mp2c7Jpu— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) February 23, 2020
With a file from the Canadian Press
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.