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Ayres Wins NHL Fan Choice Award for Best Feel-Good Moment

EBUG triumph runs away with nearly 45 percent of category vote

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / Hurricanes.com

The legend of David Ayres is now award-winning.

After more than 2 million votes were cast in the 2020 NHL Fan Choice Awards, Ayres' emergency goaltending performance for the Carolina Hurricanes was crowned Best Feel-Good Moment. Ayres' EBUG triumph garnered nearly 45 percent of the vote in the category, one of the top-performing overall winners and the second most popular winner in the on-ice categories. This marks the second year in a row the Canes have taken home a Fan Choice Award, after the Storm Surge won Best Celly in 2019.

The date was Feb. 22, 2020, and the stage could not have been much bigger. It was Hockey Night in Canada in Toronto, and the Canes, in the midst of a tight playoff race, were on the road for the tail end of a back-to-back.

James Reimer and Petr Mrazek both left the game with injuries - and there was still a period and a half left to play.

What now?

Enter Ayres, who sported a No. 90 white Canes sweater, which clashed against his blue and white gear.

RELATED: THE LEGEND OF DAVE AYRES

Though the first two shots Ayres saw - one off the stick of John Tavares and another that bounced around in front of the net - beat him, the 42-year-old buildings operation manager (and, yes, former Zamboni driver) settled in. He denied Auston Matthews, who ranked second in the league in goals at the time, on a point-blank scoring chance late in the second period to preserve the Canes' 4-3 lead heading into the second intermission.

Video: CAR@TOR: Ayres makes history as emergency backup

The Canes got some breathing room early in the second period when Warren Foegele scored his second of the game, and from there, the team suffocated any attack the Maple Leafs might have had. Toronto managed just seven shots on goal in the third, and Ayres stopped them all en route to recording the win in net and being named first star of the game.

After a national television interview, during which he draped the iconic Hockey Night in Canada towel around his neck, Ayres walked into the Canes locker room, which burst into celebratory mayhem.

Video: Rod Brind'Amour's post game locker room speech.

"Right now, it's kind of hard to put into words," a smiling Ayres said after the game.

That's a feel-good moment if there ever was one, and the memories will last forever.

RELATED: AYRES SPREADS MESSAGE OF HOPE

"That's pretty special. I told the guys after the game, I thanked them because that just gave me an incredible memory," Rod Brind'Amour said after the game. "Just the way that game unfolded, how hard we were playing and then to have that happen. You kind of think, oh well. How is this going to end up? We just dug in and said we're not going to lose this game. For him, what a moment he'll have for the rest of his life. That's incredible. That's why you do this."

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