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Ayres Spreads Message of Hope

Ayres: 'There's always someone there to help you'

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / CarolinaHurricanes.com

On Saturday night, Dave Ayres was back in Scotiabank Arena, watching, waiting, standing by just in case of emergency.

A week prior, Ayres had been summoned into an improbable situation: making his National Hockey League debut in front of a sold-out crowd in Toronto on Hockey Night in Canada.

For the 42-year-old building operations manager, it was no ordinary Saturday night.

What followed wasn't ordinary, either. The story, now forever preserved in Canes lore, has been told many times over already. Ayres, in emergency relief, made eight saves on 10 shots behind the staunch defense of the Carolina Hurricanes in a 6-3 victory.

Ayres, the unlikely hero, was thrust into an international spotlight, and he handled the swarm of attention with the upmost grace and humility.

Ayres, who received a kidney transplant from his mother in 2004, used his newfound platform to spread an important message of hope.

"I want to make sure everyone else knows just because you have a transplant or something like that, it's not the end of the world. For me, that's really, really huge. Obviously if I didn't have my transplant, I wouldn't be here," he said. "I know a lot of people fall into maybe even a depressed state. I fell into that too with my kidney transplant. I thought, 'No hockey. What am I going to go into?' It was kind of a shock to me. For me to be able to speak to other people and say it's kind of like a little phase."

In commemorative celebration of Ayres' performance, the Canes made No. 90 white shirseys available shortly after his victory. A portion of the proceeds will be given to Ayres, who signed an amateur try-out contract before making his debut, and the Carolinas Division of the National Kidney Foundation.

Additionally, R&D Brewing will donate $3,695 to the Carolinas Division of the NKF after pledging $1 for every $5 16 oz. can of Storm Brew sold at PNC Arena on Feb. 25.

That night, the NKF had a presence on the concourse, where before the game, Ayres signed autographs for a line that snaked past section after section. The first person in line was a kidney donor.

It was Dave Ayres Day in Raleigh, but it was about so much more.

"It's not necessarily about on the ice and what happened in that game because if I didn't have that transplant, I never would have gotten to that game," Ayres said. "The Carolina organization has been fantastic to me, and they've supported everything I've talked about."

Video: Dave Ayres Press Conference

Ayres' game stick now lives in the Hockey Hall of Fame, forever preserving his historical appearance. He held onto the game puck he snared at the final horn and, of course, his jersey.

"It was the best feeling to see his smile," Sarah Ayres said of when she finally got to see her husband more than an hour after the game that night.

READ: THE LEGEND OF DAVE AYRES

"I think I was still cherry-faced. My face was still red from being on the ice, sweating and everything else afterward," Dave said. "When I saw her, it was great. It was a big relief to see her and how happy she was."

The memories, the experience, the pure joy in it all, a story fit to be retold one day in a book or a movie with an inspirational message that transcends sports.

"There's always someone there to help you. There's always someone there that's going to support you," Ayres said. "There's always a way for you to get to where you want to be and even beyond."

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