Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the Miracle On Ice. One interesting thing about that remarkable team is that Herb Brooks was a shrewd judge of talent and found a lot of NHL-caliber players, but Jim Craig wasn’t one of them: he played 30 NHL games with an .857 SP%. But he stopped 36 out of 39 shots against one of the greatest hockey teams ever built, played equally well for the rest of the tournament, and history was made. (On the other side of it, the Soviets had a Hall of Fame calibre goaltender who had an uncharacteristically shaky first period, causing Tikhonov to pull him out of some combination of panic and frustration, which was…unwise.)
If that was tragedy for the Soviets, this is glorious farce for the NHL’s most eternally overhyped organization:
David Ayres was sitting by himself in the bowels of Scotiabank Arena when he got word Hurricanes goalie James Reimer had suffered an injury.
The on-call emergency netminder for Saturday’s game in Toronto, Ayers got half-dressed into his gear on the off chance something might happen to Carolina’s second option, Petr Mrazek.
Midway through the second period, Ayres noticed his phone started to blow up. What he didn’t realize was Mrazek had been hurt in a scary collision with Maple Leafs forward Kyle Clifford and was down on the ice.
Next thing the 42-year-old Zamboni driver by day knew, he was walking down the tunnel and into the spotlight.
And not long after, he had an improbable first NHL win.
Ayres allowed goals on the first two shots he faced before settling down and stopping the next eight directed his way in a suffocating defensive performance from his new teammates as Carolina picked up a stunning 6-3 victory over Toronto.
“I had a couple of text messages that told me to get in there,” Ayres said in front a throng of reporters. “I hadn’t seen the footage [of Mrazek’s injury]. I was in the media room by myself and a guy came in and said, ‘Get going. Get ready.’
The parallel isn’t perfect — Craig really did stand on his head that game, while the Hurricanes suffocated the Leafs enough that Ayres didn’t have to do a lot — but you still love to see it. Did I mention that the Hurricanes played the whole game without their star defenseman, the third period without their second-best defenseman, and had played the night before?
Oh yeah, and there was another, slightly less important NHL story yesterday: