It’s Never Too Late! 42-Year-Old Makes Historic NHL Debut

Is this the most heart-warming story in sporting history?

What you need to know
  • David Ayers lived out his childhood dream at the age of 42
  • This story is so heart-warming it could melt the ice on the rink

There have been some incredible sporting debuts. Just a couple of months ago, Richmond’s Marlion Pickett made a debut in the AFL that looked scripted, winning an AFL premiership in his first game and coming in third for the Norm Smith Medal voting.

But, overnight a sporting debut in the National Hockey League looks like it was lifted from an actual fairytale.

Here’s the scene – the Carolina Hurricanes are playing the Toronto Maple Leafs. Early in the second period, the Hurricanes’ goalie James Reimer goes down with an injury. He’s replaced by their second-string goalie Petr Mrazek, who gets injured too only six minutes later.

Enter David Ayers, the 42-year-old emergency back up goalie for the Hurricanes. His job is usually to clean the ice between periods for matches in the American Hockey League and he also happens to work as a practice goalie for the Maple Leafs. Ayers was sitting in the stand watching the match with his wife, and when Mrazek went down injured, his phone starts blowing up.

“I had a couple of text messages that told me to get in there,” Ayers later told reporters. “I hadn’t seen [Mrazek’s injury]. I was in the media room by myself and a guy came in and said, ‘Get going. Get ready.’”

Much like getting called into work when everyone else has called in sick, the Hurricanes rush him down to the change rooms, quickly make up a jersey with his name and then send him out to make his NHL debut as their third-string goalie. There’s not much hope for the Hurricanes at this point, with one commentator lamenting “my heart break for this Hurricanes hockey club right now.”

At first, it doesn’t go well. Ayes concedes the first two shots on goal, but this would only add to the drama. Ayers does not let in another goal and the Hurricanes go on to win 6-3 in one of the great underdog victories in the sport’s history.

The Carolina Hurricanes surround [Ayers] and defeat the Toronto Maples Leafs!” yelled one commentator as he was mobbed by his new teammates. “Wow! Wow!”

Footage of Ayers getting showered with drinks by his teammates after the match has already been viewed four million times on Twitter with his wife Sarah tweeting: “I am the happiest, proudest woman on the planet because my human got to live out his ultimate dream.”

The Hurricanes are already selling Ayers No. 90 jerseys that are surely going to sell out immediately. He’ll also be paid $500 for jumping in at the last minutes and receive some of the royalties from the jersey sales.

David Ayers with his new jersey.

Speaking after the match, Ayers said: “The crowd in Toronto was unreal. Even though I was on the other team, they were so receptive. Every time I made a save I could hear them cheering for me.”

If this story doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, you are dead inside.