CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Talk about ice in your veins. In the middle of a playoff race, David Ayres, a 44-year-old Zamboni driver in Toronto did something people can only dream about. The Toronto emergency goaltender came down from the press box, dressed in a Carolina Hurricanes jersey, and not only played in an NHL game, but beat the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“The first two shots went in and my heart started to break. I’m thinking please God get the period over with, let him settle down and the Canes will have to hunker down in the third. Once he came out of it, everyone got the best possible story,” Jason Shaya said.
Like father, like son.
The Canes' minor league affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, actually had Ayres back them up on an emergency basis early in February when Anton Forsberg got food poisoning.
But if it were to happen again at home, it's the voice of the Checkers that could mind the pipes.
“I backed up games in the old United Hockey League, the ECHL and the AHL. When the circumstances call upon it they just need a goalie and it’s a good story. But, I always say, it’s a good story until you have to go in, then it can be a disaster. It’s much less stressful to be in the broadcast booth talking about the game than to be in it," he said.
Shaya's trade by day is being Checkers' play-by-play announcer, but he also practices with the team as a goalie.
“I will skate a lot. I skated back-to-back games this week. I’m happy I won’t have to be out there this week though," Shaya said.
Shaya has even suited up a game after the team's starter got hurt earlier in the day.
While Shaya loves being on the ice, he'd prefer to stay in the press box.
“It’s fun to see a game from down there but also, when you’re at the bench and you see these guys going full speed at ice level, it’s quite scary. It’s a fast, heavy game," Shaya said.
Shaya practices with the Checkers on a regular basis and had some advice for those who may want a shot.
"Listen, if you are a beer leaguer and your dream is to play in a professional setting, I’d say don’t quit your day job. There are some very good goalies out there. What I hope is that they get on the ice and get a little bit better. I’ve been practicing with professional teams for 15 years so if I don’t get better, they won’t invite me back so just make sure the next time you’re on the ice, leave no regrets," Shaya said.