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Ayres’ ‘Walter Mitty’ story a hockey treat

Columnist Bruce Penton writes about David Ayres backstopping the Carolina Hurricanes to a win
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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty came alive in late February in front of a nation-wide TV audience viewing Hockey Night in Canada.

In the blink of an hour or so on a Saturday night, David Ayres became a household name across Canada and by Monday, his “15 minutes of fame” splashed across North America.

And now, hockey analyst Brian Burke and other influential voices around the National Hockey League are saying they want to take steps to ensure it never happens again.

Why? It was the greatest story of the NHL season to date, shuffling to the side all the talk about concussions, injuries, assaults, suspensions and teams tanking.

Details of the story need not be told, but here’s the Coles notes: If you’re reading this column, dedicated to sports, you know all about Ayres, the Zamboni driver who was an emergency goalie in Toronto suddenly thrust into the middle of a Leafs-Carolina game. In true Walter Mitty fashion, he went on to win the game and then did a whirlwind circuit of talk shows, sports interview programs and late night TV comedy programs on Monday.

He got paid $500 for his approximate 30 minutes of work in goal for Carolina, plus he got to keep his Canes’ jersey. He might also share in some of the royalties from “Ayres 90” jersey sales.  As for the memories? Well, that was worth untold millions. Thirty years from now, his grandchildren will be begging him to quit talking about Feb. 22, 2020.

Less than 48 hours after Burke grouchily told TV viewers that the Ayres situation was an embarrassment to the NHL, governors reportedly started talking about a review of the “EBUG” (emergency backup goalie) situation. Hockey fans would never again have a chance to revel in the delight of a David Ayres if the owners follow through with a plan to force teams to carry a third goalie with them at all times — someone who is paid simply to be available in an emergency. That goalie would have to own some junior or collegiate experience and, oh, yes, be of an age that curmudgeons like Burke don’t find embarrassing. Ayres, after all, was 42 when he stonewalled the Leafs with eight saves in the third period to cement a 6-3 Carolina win in front of shocked Leafs’ fans in Toronto.

Meanwhile, the Secret Life of David Ayres goes onto the back shelf at the local library, fulfilling the wish of Brian Burke but spoiling one of the greatest Cinderella stories the NHL has ever told.

  • Comedy guy Torben Rolfsen of Vancouver’s TSN, the Rolfsen Report: "If the Zamboni driver had gotten injured, next in goal for the Canes would have been Drake.“
  • Headline in “Victorious Patrick Mahomes Thanks Bears For Drafting Mitchell Trubisky”
  • Norman Chad of the Washington Post, on the ever-growing allegations against the Houston Astros: “Eventually, we’ll discover the Astros also had a hand in the Great Chicago Fire, the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby and the Watergate cover-up.”
  • Another one from Chad, on inaction from Astros’ owner Jim Crane: “Harry S. Truman famously had a sign on his desk that said, ‘The buck stops here.’ Crane’s version of that is, ‘The buck stops down the hall and to the right, in an office adjacent to the men’s restroom.’”
  • Bob Molinari of (Hampton, Va.): “With scream queen Maria Sharapova announcing her retirement, women’s tennis is less glamorous. But a lot quieter.”
  • Comedy writer Jim Barach: “Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer says 70 per cent of Major League Baseball pitchers cheat. The other 30 per cent can throw the ball over 95 mph so they don’t have to.”
  • RJ Currie of “The Christian Science Monitor estimated eight in 10 NFL players are bankrupt two years into retirement. This is different than CFL players, who are bankrupt two years into their careers.”
  • Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “A self-titled daredevil, ‘Mad Mike’ Hughes, tried to prove the earth was flat in his homemade rocket; sadly it crashed to the Nevada desert. Legally they had to then name the rocket the New York Knicks.”
  • Patti Dawn Swansson, aka the River City Renegade, reacting to Tony Romo’s $17 million CBS contract:  “Hmmm, I wonder how much it would take for Fox to get Terry Bradshaw to stop talking.”
  • Bob Molinaro again, on the Orioles playing split-squad games in spring training: “C’mon now. The Birds don’t have enough big-league players for even one squad.”
  • Greg Cote of the Miami Herald, on NASCAR's Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead. “Hmm. Should a bunch of guys driving 180 mph in heavy traffic be sponsored by vodka?”
  • Joe Burrow, projected No. 1 draft pick, on Twitter, after measurements taken at the NFL Combine showed his throwing hand had a nine-inch span: "Considering retirement after I was informed the football will be slipping out of my tiny hands. Please keep me in your thoughts."

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

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