TORONTO -- Within a week, the hockey stick of a Zamboni driver forced onto the ice as an emergency backup goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes in Toronto went from a game of shinny with friends, to an NHL game, to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“I didn’t expect all of this to happen,” David Ayres told reporters as his stick was added to a glass display inside the Hockey Hall of Fame in downtown Toronto on Friday morning.

“I’m sure as a hockey player, any kid at any age always wants a part of them to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame, so for them to ask me to have my stick here and now have it on display, I’m extremely honoured.”

David Ayres

The 42-year-old Zamboni driver for the Toronto Marlies was serving as the emergency goalie for the NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on Feb. 22.

The Whitby, Ont. resident was watching the game with his wife when the Carolina Hurricanes’ goalie, James Reimer, went down with an injury. He was then told “get going, get ready” as the team’s backup goalie, Petr Mrazek, also went down.

During all NHL games, the home team is required to have an emergency backup goalie in the building just in case either team gets stuck.

On that night, Ayres hopped on the ice and quickly became an Internet sensation.

David Ayres

“I haven’t really had a chance for all of this to sink in but the reception from everybody on how positive of a story this has become is fantastic,” he said at the Hockey Hall of Fame moments after placing his hockey stick inside the display while wearing white gloves.

“That’s the highlight – where it reaches people and everyone is happy about it and it’s just a really positive story for everyone to hear.”

Ayres said one week before his hockey stick was placed inside the Hockey Hall of Fame and one day before it appeared in a NHL game, it was being used for a Friday night game of shinny with friends.

hockey stick

While his hockey stick now lives in the Hockey Hall of Fame, Ayers did get to keep a memento from the special night: the game puck. He said the Hurricanes are framing the puck and the jersey he wore and sending it back to him.

Ayres urges kids to also ‘never give up'

Ayers had a rocky start in net that night, but went on to make eight saves, which helped lead the Hurricanes to an unlikely 6-3 victory over the Maple Leafs.

In the end, he received a standing ovation from the 19,414 fans in the arena and once he walked into the visitors’ dressing room he was doused in celebratory beers.

The 42-year-old said he wants to continue to use this moment to inspire young people to “never give up” through motivational speaking.

“Behind the scenes I’ve put in a lot of work, which I’m kind of hoping that translates to young kids to say never give up, doesn’t matter what age you are, if you put in a lot of hard work and you dedicate yourself, no matter what you go through you can reach whatever you want to reach if you put in the work,” he said.

Hurricanes honour ‘legend Dave Ayres’

Immediately after the game ended, the Carolina Hurricanes posted online that they had gear with Ayers’ No. 90 for sale on their website with some of the proceeds going to a kidney foundation.

“I obviously got a second chance at life,” Ayers told CTV News Channel over the weekend, thanking his mother for donating her kidney. “Without my kidney transplant I wouldn’t be here right now doing this.”

david ayres

Comments on the Hurricanes’ praise of Ayers came at the Maple Leafs’ expense. But, Ayers took a moment during all the online attention to thank Maple Leafs fans and did the same at the Hockey Hall of Fame on Friday.

“Even though I was on the other team, they were so receptive, they were so awesome,” he said.

With files from writer Jeremiah Rodriguez