Introducing, David Ayres.
David is no stranger to hockey. But he had never been a goalie in the NHL. In his younger years, Ayres now 42, played in the Allan Cup Hockey League as a goalie. More recently, he served as a backup to both the Toronto Marlies and the Charlotte Checkers in the American Hockey League. In 2004 David became ill and required a kidney transplant. His donor was his mom, Mary.
For a number of years, he worked at Ricoh Coliseum, now Coca-Cola Coliseum, home of the Toronto Marlies. As manager, he was occasionally required to do maintenance and sometimes operated the ice resurfacer, hence the nick name, Zamboni driver. While working at the Ricoh Coliseum one of the equipment men found out he was a goalie and the head coach of the Marlies started using him as a goaltender at practice when an extra man was needed, as did the Maple Leafs.
These days, he works at Mattamy Athletic Centre, the old Maple Leaf Gardens, as the building’s operations manager. And he is on call just in case. Just in case the almost impossible situation arises; both goalies from the one of the teams are injured and he is needed to fill in. On Saturday night, it just happened that the goalies who were injured were both from the opposing team – the Hurricanes.
It shouldn’t have surprised anyone that he arrived on the ice wearing a Marlies helmet and pads, and a Maple Leaf’s t-shirt under his equipment. And yet the job he was asked to do was to help Carolina win. To make matters even tougher for him, he knew full well that the odds were stacked against him. The NHL is a big step up. Despite having taken his fair share of shots fired from Maple Leaf players in practice, facing them in a game, where they were now the opposition couldn’t have been easy.
His ‘new’ team, the Hurricanes, were up 3-1 when he entered. I’m thinking the Leafs saw an easy opportunity for them to catch up and take the lead, especially after he allowed two of their early shots to go in, tying the game.
But somewhere between the second and third period, he found his stride. Players from both teams, recognizing the difficult position he had been placed in, gave him encouragement. When players from the Hurricanes told him to not worry about it, and that they were going to play hard to help him, he reached deep down and dug out the dream he must have carried for years. The Carolina Hurricanes managed a 6 – 3 win. After the first two goals scored on him, Ayres never let another shot hit the back of the net.
So often in life we are told to live in the moment. To not be looking behind ourselves, longing for the good old days, nor looking too far forward to days that may not come. And yet, I’m beginning to think we need a blend of at least two of these. It is of course important that we live in the moment. But we also need to have a slightly wider-angle lens available. We need to be able to see where we might like to be heading, who we want to be when we get there, and what we need to do today to help make it happen. And at the same time, to do what is even more difficult; to live in the moments we are given.
I think the David Ayres story is a perfect example of this. While Disney may be able to stretch the Zamboni driving angle to make it seem like David was just contentedly going about his life as an ice resurfacer, and then from nowhere was plunked into goal in an NHL game, the more truthful story is he had been preparing his whole life for this opportunity. An even more amazing truth is that when his moment presented itself, against all odds, he was able to step right into the middle of it and turn it into exactly what he must have dreamed about.
I love so many things about this story. I especially love that even though Mr. Ayres had his dream of being an NHL goaltender sidelined for what he must have thought would be forever, and that he faced an enormous health challenge, he tucked his dream in his jacket pocket and still managed to carry it with him, keeping it warm, as he went about more mundane tasks in his life, like volunteering to coach younger players and driving a Zamboni.
All of us have dreams. Sometimes they become faded, sort of trapped in the surface of the ice as the Zamboni of life applies layer after layer of water on top of them. Sometimes we stop doing the little things that propel our dream forward, or at least keep it alive. The story this week of David Ayres, serves as a wonderful reminder to us to scratch back the ice that may have covered our dream, to find a way to give it a bit of nourishment, and above all, to recognize and be brave enough to seize our moment when it happens to come our way. In the meantime, we’d be well-advised to fully enjoy the experience of driving our Zamboni around our own little ice rink of life.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘Where is your Zamboni taking you?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to steer your Zamboni toward your dream.