Source: Frank Gunn/Canadian Press
42-year-old David Ayres, Zamboni driver for the AHL Toronto Marlies and practice goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs, became the oldest goaltender in NHL history to win in his debut as the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday night.
Ayres, the emergency goalie on assignment at Scotiabank Arena, signed an amateur tryout agreement in compliance with article 11.1(b) of the NHL/NHLPA CBA. As stated in the tweet below, he was paid $0 for his appearance.
This ATO agreement can only occur if the team has less than two healthy goalies on the roster, in compliance with Article 13.12(m)(ii) of the CBA. Once a team cannot field two healthy goalies, NHL Rule 5.3 is instituted, which allows a team to play a goaltender when both are incapacitated.
Enter the situation in Toronto Saturday night. Starting goaltender James Reimer, making his return to Toronto where he was a Maple Leaf for six seasons, was injured early on in the first period. Petr Mrazek came in the game, after making the start the night before, to replace the injured Reimer. Then, this occurred:
With Mrazek joining Reimer as incapacitated to play, emergency back-up goalie (EBUG) David Ayres dressed and entered the game for the Carolina Hurricanes. After allowing goals on the first two shots, Carolina was able to restrict the Toronto offense to no goals on eight shots for the rest of the game, winning six to three.
Ayres entered the game with the encouragement of his new Canes teammates, however, this clip shows a major issue with the replacement goalie system. Ayres is entering the game wearing goaltending equipment from his employer, the Toronto Marlies. The Marlies are the minor league affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and a subsidiary team of Maple Leaf Sport and Entertainment, the ownership group of the Maple Leafs. This means the same company that signs Auston Matthews’s paychecks also signs David Ayres’.
This issue is one that the NHL should not face any longer. The Carolina Hurricanes are just outside of securing a playoff spot, with the Toronto Maple Leafs just hanging onto one, and a Maple Leafs employee is now playing goal for them. This conflict of interest is staggering and could have been a huge problem if the Hurricanes lost the game. This is an issue that the League should not want to occur any longer.
TSN and Athletic insider Pierre LeBrun tweeted that emergency goalie protocol may be a talking point in the upcoming general managers’ meetings. Having employees of opposing teams play goaltender is not an ideal situation in any circumstance, but especially in a playoff race. A possible solution would be teams keeping an emergency goaltender on traveling staff, floated by TSN insiders Craig Button and Frank Seravalli.
David Ayres made NHL history on Saturday, February 22. However, stories like this one may be on its way out as the NHL may tweak its current EBUG system.