We have all used the phrase “better late than never”, but very few get to use it in reference to an NHL Debut. In what was an unfortunate turn of events for the Carolina Hurricanes, an excited David Ayres got the call he had been waiting for for 42 years.
There is no question that Hockey Night in Canada on February 22 was anything other than spectacular. The Toronto Maple Leafs faced the Carolina Hurricanes (Canes) in a game that will be one for the history books. The game resulted in a 6-3 win for the Canes, forcing the Leafs to leave their home ice with their tails’ between their legs. With the way the season is going for the Leafs, it does not come as much of a surprise that they picked up yet another loss, but when you look at what was happening on the Canes side of the ice, it is a little mind boggling that the score was not closer.
The game started like any other; the Canes had their starting goaltender and former Leafs goaltender, James Reimer, in between the pipes. Partway through the first, Reimer is forced to leave due to injury. He is easily replaced with the Canes backup net-minder, Petr Mrazek. Unfortunately, another bump occurred for the Canes when Mrazek traveled out beyond the face off dots in a race to the puck with Leafs forward Kyle Clifford. The race did not end in favour of Mrazek, as the net-minder was sent to the locker room after getting barrelled by Clifford.
What do you do when both of your goalies get injured in an away game? Bring in the Toronto Marlies zamboni driver. It is a rule in the NHL that the home team have an emergency backup goalie present in case either team has both of their goalies injured during play. That person for the Leafs was David Ayres.
Ayres let in two goals on ten shots and got the win for the Canes. He was also named first star of the game and was the first emergency backup goalie in NHL history to record a win. What was interesting in this dramatic turn of events, was the support that Ayres received from the fans. Whenever he made a save, the fans would celebrate. Additionally, when he was called out as first-star, he received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Considering that Ayers was between the pipes for the opposing team, the support he received from the home team crowd indicates that the fans see themselves as being a part of the organization, and not simply consumers. It is, therefore, possible that, since Ayers was involved with the organization, fans supported him because they also feel like they are a part of that same organization.