The story of David Ayres, the 42-year-old Zamboni driver who catapulted to fame in the space of a heartbeat, is the stuff dreams are made of.
My husband was telling me about the story the other night while I was doing the dishes.
“Hey, did you hear about this guy who got to play goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes,” he said. “He was a Zamboni driver.”
I dried a glass slowly. I’m always drying glasses slowly, trying to get them to shine, you know, how they do in restaurants. My glasses often look less than shiny, especially if I rely on my dishwasher.
But, I regress.
“Really,” I said. “Was he just a kid? How old was he?”
I pictured a 17-year-old, a kid, another hockey star, a prodigy, standing between the pipes, making miraculous saves, creating a future for the world to see.
“He’s 42,” my husband said, obviously quite pleased with himself to make such a statement.
The story piqued my interest as it did pretty much everyone else who wasn’t living under a rock and had even the slightest interest in hockey.
David Ayers, born Aug. 12, 1977, is the first and only emergency backup goaltender to record a win in the history of the National Hockey League.
He is also the operations manager at the Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto, Ontario. His job responsibilities occasionally included maintenance and operating an ice resurfacer, commonly known as a Zamboni. My grandson refers to the Zamboni as that big thing with wheels. He knows that when that big thing with wheels comes out on the ice, it is between periods and grandma will take him to the concession for a treat.
Ayres is best known for playing in a NHL game on Feb. 22. He played for the Carolina Hurricanes as an emergency backup goaltender, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs, 6 – 3. He is the oldest goaltender to win his NHL regular-season debut.
The newly acclaimed hockey hero grew up in Whitby, Ontario.
He was a hockey player, like pretty much every other kid who grew up near a sheet of ice, whether it be in an arena, an outdoor rink or on someone’s slough.
His late father and his brother, Chris, were also goaltenders.
In 2004, life got in the ways of any plans to further his hockey career. He needed a kidney transplant and, thanks to his mother, Mary, he got one.
Now, I don’t know the guy at all personally, but from all the interviews and the time he has spent in the spotlight, he seems so nice, so ordinary, so humble.
He seems like just a guy sitting in the stands with his wife, watching a hockey game, nobody you’d pick out of a crowd. Just a guy, just an ordinary guy.
But, of course, that’s all changed.
Since that historic few minutes when he wore the Hurricanes jersey and defended his team with an amazing win against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he became so much more than just a guy, just an ordinary guy.
He became a hero. He also became walking, talking proof that dreams do come true.
I am happy for David Ayers, an ordinary guy, who got an extra-ordinary break one night in late February when he was sitting quietly in the stands with his wife, watching the game.
I only wish my brother could have lived to hear about it.
My brother believed that dreams came true.
My brother, who played winter and summer in the back yard with a broken old hockey stick and a tin can, believed he would one day shoot and score himself to the heights of hockey fame, somehow, somewhere.
And I think, even when he played in the back yard with that old stick and a tin can, in his imagination, he really did achieve that fame.
I hope so.
I thought about my brother when I heard to the story of David Ayrers. an ordinary guy, who, in less than a heartbeat, became extra-ordinary and not only in his imagination, but in real life.
It’s inspirational. It’s amazing. And, even better than that, it’s true.
But, you know, sometimes, when I think of my brother who played relentlessly in winter and summer in the back yard, shooting and scoring in front of a crowd that only he could see, I think he was pretty extra-ordinary as well!
I only wish I would have told him so!
Treena Mielke is the editor of the Rimbey Review. She lives in Sylvan Lake with her family.