It’s been a wild year for David Ayres.
Ever since he made history in February, his name has been everywhere, from Sportsnet to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In case you missed it (is that even possible?), Ayres is the first emergency backup goalie to win an NHL game, cementing his place in history when the Hurricanes defeated the Maple Leafs 6-3 in Toronto.
Just last month, this victory was voted “Greatest Moment of the NHL Season…So Far”. Clearly, it’s the sort of story that’s unique and inspirational. I grabbed the opportunity to sit down and chat with him about the effect of the game, his current job, and future plans.
July 13, 2020, On the phone in Toronto, CA
Your story is very inspiring, not just for athletes but for people everywhere. Years after going through your transplant - you've made history. What do you see in your future? I read elsewhere that you’re not keen on becoming an NHL player, is that still the case?
I’ll be 43 in August. Now that the NHL is going back they have got a rule there that if your immune system is compromised you can’t be a part of it. That leaves me out of the NHL – for now. I may go back as an emergency goalie, for games or whatnot. That’s why I came to CIMCO. I had obviously dealt with CIMCO for a while, being in the arena industry. I’ve met a lot of really good people that work here and the company is great, so when I was offered the job, I was all over it. I have my arena experience but I didn’t really want to work in the arena anymore per se, so CIMCO was a great option for me and I jumped all over that one. Hopefully, it takes me into my future.
I’m sure it will. Now being in the arena industry, you’ve spent a lot of your life involved with ice in one way or another. How do you think this has shaped you?
I’ll never be able to leave the ice, it’s something that’s embedded in me. I’ll be involved in hockey or in the arenas in some way or another my whole life, whether it’s coaching or with CIMCO, which brings me to the rinks. It’s a part of me, and it has been since I was born. My dad and my brother were both hockey players as well, so they obviously spent a lot of time at the rink. I’ll always find something in the arena business or a way to get on the ice.
What compelled you to become a practice goalie?
I was working at the arena for the Toronto Marlies, and the athletic trainer was down a couple of injured players. He said why don’t you bring your gear in (I had told them I was a goalie) and when I went out there they were like “whoa, you’re pretty good”. So I went out again the next day, and they ended up asking me to be their practice goalie. 8 years later, I still do it.
Makes sense. Now, you were actually a customer of CIMCO earlier – did that affect your decision to join us?
Yeah, I have a bunch of friends there. I worked for the city of Oshawa and I got along really well with my mechanic there. The same thing happened in Toronto – you know, you meet a bunch of people you like and they all speak highly of the company. I know one’s dad was in the company for a long time and now that he’s retired, he still speaks highly of it; he loved it. Every time I dealt with anyone from CIMCO they were always nice, always accommodating, really knew their stuff, and made sure the customer was a priority. They wanted to make sure your rink – whatever the problem was – was fixed as soon as possible, in the best way it could be fixed. That’s why I always liked the company. I’ve heard stories of people’s brothers and parents working at CIMCO, and that really tells you how much people like it. It’s like a family – everybody has each other’s backs and so far, so good for me as well.
I agree. I’m new myself and just hearing about people who have worked in this company for 20, 25 years – it’s incredible. I guess this becomes home.
Yeah. I didn’t want to work in arenas my whole life and before this game, I was looking at different options for the future. There was a possibility of me being an assistant goalie coach for the Marlies or something like that. But when I got the call from the CIMCO mechanics I was friends with, it was an easy decision. They said I was perfect for the position with my 16 years of experience in the rinks, every rink from the NHL all the way down…They didn’t have much talking to do, but they talked me into it.
It’s different, of course, going from one side to the other. It’s different from being a customer; there’s a lot to learn and it’s going to take me a while to be good at it, but it will be fun to learn it all.
Is that something you could still do, as a fill-in or part-time to help coach the team?
Yeah, there are options. I know with the Marlies or Leafs I can always go and help them part-time, but I know they want me to be their practice goalie as well. Usually, I go in and practice in the morning for an hour or two. The great thing about this job is that I can work remotely, so I can have my laptop with me in the truck and just work as I go.
Now that you are part of CIMCO, has it lived up to the expectations you had formed as a customer?
Yeah. They’re really good to their employees and everyone I’ve spoken to at the company has been fantastic. Whether it’s a conversation about hockey or just a general conversation, they’re all great people so looking forward to staying a lot longer, that’s for sure.
Switching gears a little bit; working in arenas, did you ever have an opinion or preference concerning refrigerants?
That’s a tough one. I think Ammonia is probably the best bang for your buck. If I’m leaning towards one, it’s going to be Ammonia because it’s been a staple in most rinks for so long. It works.
I know my last rink had Freon screw compressors; there were always issues with it. The ice quality was never as good as it is with natural refrigerants; keeping the ice temperature at where we need it is harder. And with Freon, you have to be super careful, because if there’s a leak you can’t smell it. At least with Ammonia, it’s self-alarming, so you know when there’s a situation that needs to be dealt with.
Right, some people aren’t fans of Ammonia, but as you said, at least you know what’s happening in case of a leak.
Yeah, that’s it. With Freon, you have to make sure you keep your eyes on the detection meter, or before you know it you’re on the floor and you have no clue what happened. I know of three separate major instances of Freon leaks. You think of that and you think of the environmental effect of Freon and…CO2 and Ammonia just make so much more sense.
Well Dave, thanks for taking the time today. Any last words for hockey fans out there?
My dad passed away a few years ago. He was with the Marlies and he used to always say, “Anything you want to do, just try hard and you’ll be able to do it”. My mom’s proud, she’s like, ‘Look, your dad told you, keep going and don’t stop’. I never thought I was going to play in the NHL, it wasn’t really my goal at that point – my goal was good hockey and maybe getting into a couple of games in the American hockey league. But then this happened, and things just kind of went up from there. So, you never know what can happen.