The sorrow and the savage: Leafs’ historic loss to Zamboni driver inspires range of emotional reactions

It’s rare that a regular season NHL game in mid February is guaranteed to be remembered until the end of time, but Saturday’s meeting between the Toronto Maple Leafs and visiting Carolina Hurricanes is most definitely one for the history books.

That’s because the former Zamboni driver for the Maple Leafs’ AHL team played net for the Hurricanes.

And he won.

For those just stumbling across this, here’s a brief game synopsis: Carolina’s starting goalie James Reimer left the game in the first period with an lower-body injury.


Petr Mrazek was summoned to fill in for the injured Reimer, and was humming along nicely until he was bowled over by Toronto’s Kyle Clifford, and was forced to leave the game in the second period with his team up 3-1.


NHL teams only (usually) dress two goaltenders, so that meant the emergency backup goalie, David Ayres, was called into action. The former Zamboni driver has been a practice goalie for the Leafs’ AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies for the past eight years, and also practices with the Leafs.

This was him in net during the Maple Leafs outdoor practice in front of city hall:


So he’s faced plenty of shots from pro players, but Saturday was the first time he’d been called into action in an NHL game.

Long story short, Ayres allowed two goals on the first two shots he faced, but he and his new team held on for a 6-3 win.

At 42, he became the oldest goaltender in league history to win in his NHL debut.


Naturally, all of this blew the mind of pretty much every hockey fan on social media, including those that knew him personally.


A couple of fellow NHL goaltenders also got in on the conversation.



And then there was Ayres’ wife, Sarah, who had to watch nervously from Scotiabank Arena alone after her husband ditched her to, you know, make his NHL debut and all that.


But in all of the excitement for Ayres success, there was also some extremely distressed Leafs fans who had to watch their beloved team muster just 8 shots in 30 minutes of play.




But hey, no matter what the Leafs players are feeling today, at least they’ll be able to discuss it with the guy who put them here in the first place.


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CBC | Sports News