How A Humble Zamboni Driver Became An NHL Folk Hero

How A Humble Zamboni Driver Became An NHL Folk Hero

Many sports fans have often dreamed of being called down from the stands to replace an injured player for their favorite team. For most of us, that is all it will ever be, just a dream of playing in the major leagues. For David Ayres, however, that dream became a reality when the 42-year-old Zamboni driver stepped in to save the day in an NHL game.

Doing an honest job

While many hockey fans do what they can to play the sport, ultimately, most have to accept they are never going to play in the NHL. The standard is just so high, and so 42-year-old Zamboni driver David Ayres had accepted he wouldn’t make the grade a long time ago. That didn’t stop him from dreaming about it though, and in a bizarre turn of events, he found his skills required on the ice in February 2020. No, not to clear the ice on his Zamboni, but to play hockey for an NHL team.

Falling like flies

Ayres works as a Zamboni driver and maintenance worker for the Toronto Marlies, an affiliate of the Maple Leafs. He just happened to be at the game when the Maple Leafs’ opponents, the Carolina Hurricanes, lost both of their goalies to injury. Ayres had some skill as a goaltender, and he got a call up to put a Hurricanes jersey on. There was no one else who could do it, so Ayres was just about to step on the ice as an NHL player for the first time. He’d been on that ice hundreds of times, but usually with no fans in the arena, now the spotlight was firmly on him.

Nerves getting the better of him

When Ayres first stepped onto the ice, he was pretty nervous. He might have saved a few shots in a pickup game before, but now he was going to be trying to stop pucks from NHL superstars. The first two shots sent toward Ayres went right into the goal. This could be a long night, even though the game was over halfway when Ayres stepped in.

The Hurricanes were trailing the Maple Leafs as the teams went back to the locker room after the second third. Ayres still had faith in his own abilities. He told his new teammates in the locker room that now the nerves were out of his system he would be a different player.

Proving himself right

Ayres certainly did play like a man possessed in the final third. The Zamboni driver was 0-2 shots saved at the beginning of the final third, by the end, he was 8-2, having saved eight shots in a row. Not only did Ayres prove to be a rock for his team, but he also inspired the Hurricanes to an amazing 6-3 comeback win.

Ayres was voted the No. 1 Star of the Game, and afterward, the Zamboni driver said, “I had the time of my life out there.” When he came back to the locker room, Ayres was showered with drinks by his teammates as they were delighted with his impact on the ice. Ayres left the arena that day a folk hero who would be remembered forever.