Before the NHL had to pause the season the year had been filled with great stories. There were stories of poetic justice, injury comebacks, battles for rookie of the year, battles to be called the best team in Alberta, and more. The NHL was filled with feel good stories. Yet the best ones involved an AHL zamboni driver, substance abuse, and a cancer diagnosis. They’re all seperate stories, and the last two sound a little dark. But as Samwise Gamgee said best, “it’s only a passing thing this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.” The stories with darkness end up shining all the brightest in the end. Hopefully the same with these.
Zamboni Driver plays Emergency Goalie, and Wins
February 22, 2020 a day that will live in infamy for the Toronto Maple Leaves and celebrated everywhere by the Carolina Hurricanes.
19,369 days since a Cup. 79 days since losing to an AHL Zamboni driver.#LeafsForever — Since Leafs Last Cup (@LeafsIastCup) May 12, 2020
David Ayers is the AHL zamboni driver, in the Leafs defense he’s not technically a zamboni driver. He was a buildings operator for the Toronto Marlies, the AHL affiliate of the Maple Leafs, and would “occasionally” operate an ice resurfacing machine. He did also serve as the Marlies backup goaltender and played in the Allan Cup Hockey League in 2016 where he had a .777 save percentage and an 0-8 record. You would say thats a bit iffy at best. So the Leafs writes this guys checks and he does drive zambonis. Thats if you believe wikipedia. Which you should its pretty credible at this point.
When both of the Hurricanes goaltenders got injured he was called in to play goalie, against his own employer. He could have just let in half the shots and gave the guys he works for an easy win, but he’s a competitive guy and a professional on the ice no way thats happening. Instead the Hurricanes play perfect defense and Ayers stops enough shots to secure the win. That win was his first win as a professional hockey player, and the first ever win by an emergency backup goaltender. That game also happened on the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice. You could just say its a coincidence, or you could say magic, or the hockey gods blessing us with a good time, either way it is pretty cool.
Ayers later made numerous appearances on late night talk shows and dominated social media for the next few weeks. T shirts were made by the Hurricanes with the royalties going to Ayers and portion of the profit going to the kidney foundation of Ayer’s choice. The reason for that specific foundation is because he needed a kidney transplant in 2004, which his mother donated to him. Just above and beyond from mom on that one. As of now Ayers stands as the only emergency backup goaltender to win a game in NHL history, after only being a backup to being in the record books. 0-8 in the Allan League, 1-0 in the NHL. Pretty sweet stats if you ask me. Which you’re still reading this so you must have. On to to the next
Substance Abuse and Hat Tricks
Bobby Ryan was drafted second overall by the Anaheim Ducks in 2005. During the 2019-20 season while playing with the Ottawa Senators he admitted to abusing alcohol and entered into the NHL substance abuse program. You hear stories of players in every sports league abusing alcohol or drugs, some players more than once. Rarely do you hear of the player turning it around in such beautiful fashion.
It was 100 days after Bobby Ryan entered into the NHL substance abuse policy that he made his home return to Ottawa. He netted two goals and an empty netter to complete the hat trick. He also dropped the mitts and won a pretty solid fight during the game. While he was on the bench you could see tears in his eyes as the fans cheered his name. Being in the substance abuse program must have been a low point for him, then to come back later after working hard to beat an addiction and have fans cheer for you would be euphoric. It would be like getting black out drunk at the office Christmas party throwing up everywhere, rallying, cleaning it up, sober up a bit then somehow going home with that hottie you’ve been crushing on and they cheer you on in bed. Or something similar.
Just gets real bad there for a minute, you think it’s all over, then. WHAM Things start going your way 100%, you feel you can do no wrong. It’s a feeling we all want. Maybe we won’t get to feel it on an NHL rink but you do have those days where it is just all you. It’s a great story for Bobby Ryan, a guy that very well could have never been playing hockey in the first place. Watch the Secret Life of Bobby Ryan if you want to find out why that is.
Good News with Oskar Lindbolm
In December Oskar Lindbolm was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. He has been undergoing treatments ever since. Regardless of how dark a prospect beating cancer is you never saw a frown on Oskar’s face. He made it to team photos with the Philadelphia Flyers and had a smile on the entire time, even without his golden locks. Cancer really can be a dark shadow over someones life and he was able to smile through every bit of it. There were probably some darker times for Oskar but it seems things are on the upswing. Recently the assistant general manager for the Flyers announced that Oskar’s treatments are going better than expected, and that he is nearing his last rounds of treatment.
The great part with the last two stories is that they are still happening. When the NHL resumes in some fashion we’ll be able to watch Bobby Ryan again and we will see the return of Oskar Lindbolm. You love to see a good comeback story.
I’ll just let the phenomenal acting of Sean Astin and the triumphant music of Howard Shore get the point across best. Can’t have happy without a little sad. Like I said Samwise Gamgee put it best.