By Justin Walters, Mike Jagassar and Libaan Osman
Kevin MacDonald, the former public address announcer at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC), was at the Ryerson Rams women’s hockey playoff game on Feb. 22. During an intermission between periods was the moment he found out his boss David Ayres was getting suited up for the Carolina Hurricanes.
MacDonald, who now works as a building operator at the MAC, couldn’t believe the news.
“All of a sudden, I get a message on Facebook saying [David Ayres] is going into the game,” said MacDonald. “It actually took me a second to realize what the hell he was talking about.” Once MacDonald realized what was happening, he and staff members at the MAC quickly turned on the Leafs game to watch Ayres in action.
The Carolina Hurricanes started Saturday night’s game in Toronto with two goaltenders, and with eight minutes and 21 seconds left in the second period, both goalies had to leave the game due to injuries.
That’s when emergency goalie Ayres was called in. The 42-year-old has been employed for eight years by the Maple Leafs as a full-time practice goalie for the organization, a backup goalie and former Zamboni driver with the Toronto Marlies.
Ayres is the manager of the operations department at the MAC and is at Ryerson a few times a week attending all varsity games. He oversees all building operations—from driving the Zamboni, to switching between the basketball and volleyball setups in the Coca-Cola Court, to having broken exercise machines repaired.
We talked to two of his colleagues at the MAC about who he is to them as a Ryerson community member.
“[Ayres is] an absolute massive part of our team here,” said Robert Langridge, the varsity and events coordinator at the MAC. “He’s one heck of an ice guy; he’s really good on that Zamboni. I and some of my colleagues actually learned to drive the machine from him, he taught us and it was pretty cool.”
MacDonald has worked with Ayres for over two years now. He says he’s a laid back person who can switch to manager mode with ease. During some Ryerson games, MacDonald and Ayres will chat easily as if they’ve been friends for much longer than two years.
Now, Ayres is one of the most famous people in the world of hockey.
After a slow start in net with the Maple Leafs scoring two goals past Ayres to make it 4-3 Hurricanes, the Whitby, Ont., local would shut down the Leafs offence in the final period.
The Hurricanes allowed eight shots on goal by the Maple Leafs in the period, and Ayres stopped them all as the Hurricanes scored two goals themselves to win the game 6-3. Ayres was named the first star of the game, received an ovation from the Toronto crowd and became the oldest goalie in NHL history to get a win in a debut.
Fifteen years ago, Ayers didn’t know if he’d ever play hockey again after undergoing a kidney transplant. His mother, Mary, was the donor. Today, a shirt with his name is being sold for $28 on the Hurricanes website. The team announced that Ayres will be getting royalties and they’re working with him to have a kidney foundation receive a portion of the proceeds.
Back at Ryerson, his friends couldn’t have been happier to see Ayres’ dream come to life.
“It was a proud moment,” said MacDonald. “He’s my boss, but he’s also a friend of mine. It’s one of those moments where you watch in awe as one of your friends gets to live out their dream.”
Langridge felt pride and happiness for Ayres when thinking about what transpired.
“He’s been following this hockey dream his entire life,” said Langridge. “It’s great to see it come true. We’re all so proud of him here, he deserves it.”
Since the game, he’s travelled to Raleigh, North Carolina, where the team honoured him with a pre-game tribute Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars, and he introduced the team with a siren sound at the start of the game. The hockey stick Ayres used is expected to go into the Hockey Hall of Fame.