Fans who tuned in to watch the Carolina Hurricanes take on the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 22nd, 2020 had no idea that they were about to witness a little piece of hockey history.
When the Hurricanes entered the contest they had two healthy goalies ready to take on the talented Maple Leafs offense, and it was in fact a former Maple Leaf in veteran James Reimer that had been given the net on the evening. Reimer however would not last long suffering a lower body injury injury in the game's opening period. After the loss of Reimer however the Hurricanes were still in good shape, putting in Petr Mrazek as his replacement, but Mrazek himself would also suffer an injury on a busted play in the second period.
Mrazek was taken out of the game by then Maple Leafs forward Kyle Clifford when the two were involved in a major collision as they both tried to play the puck. Clifford bulldozed Mrazek on the play and although he was initially given a 5 minute major and a misconduct on the play, it would eventually be reduced to just a two minute a minor penalty. I suspect that Clifford's clear attempt to play the puck is what resulted in the reduced penalty at the time.
That however left the Hurricanes without a goaltender of any kind and although the Carolina Hurricanes broadcast openly questioned whether or not they would consider bringing back the injured James Reimer, that simply wasn't going to happen. Instead the Hurricanes were forced to use the emergency backup goalie that was on hand in the building, and as we all know that man turned out to be 42 year old Toronto Marlies Zamboni driver David Ayers.
Ayers, who had never played a game in the National Hockey League, was as unproven as they get having only played Junior B hockey and the look on the face of Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour when he hit the ice spoke volumes. In spite of the doubts from the Hurricanes head coach however, Ayers would go on to hold the fort for the Hurricanes, leading them to a victory over the Maple Leafs, a team that Ayers had spent his entire life cheering for.
Here are the highlights from his performance:
Even better than his performance on the ice however was the reception he got from the Hurricanes following the game.
Full credit to the amazing fans in Toronto who, in spite of their team losing, stayed to give Ayers a standing ovation following the game.