TORONTO -- David Ayres could come up with one word immediately after placing the stick he used with the Carolina Hurricanes in his NHL debut in the Hockey Hall of Fame: surreal.
Never would Ayres have thought that his first visit to the Hall's home since 1993, at Brookfield Place on Yonge Street, would be a ceremony in his honor.
"It's the first time since it has been in this location that I've been here. I've definitely got to come and visit a little more often now," said Ayres, who lives in Bowmanville, Ontario, about an hour east of Toronto. "To think of all the hard work and time that some of the greatest players have put in and to have their accomplishments here, for me to have a small little piece of something I've done in here is unbelievable to me."
The 42-year-old rose to fame when he came into Carolina's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Feb. 22 as the emergency backup goalie for the Hurricanes after James Reimer and Petr Mrazek each left with an injury. Ayres made eight saves and got the win in Carolina's 6-3 victory.
Ayres, who regularly participates at Maple Leafs practices when an extra goalie is required and sometimes drives the ice resurfacing machine as maintenance operations manager at Mattamy Athletic Centre (formerly Maple Leaf Gardens) has been on a media blitz since then. On Monday, he appeared on several shows, including "Today," "Ellen," and "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert." On Tuesday, he was honored in Raleigh, North Carolina, at the Hurricanes home game against the Dallas Stars, even cranking the pregame siren at PNC Arena.
"I haven't pinpointed one highlight yet," Ayres said. "We didn't get home until midnight on Friday morning, so I haven't really stopped since Saturday. The reception from everybody on just how positive a story this has become is fantastic. I had four or five people stop me in the mall when I was in Carolina and just tell me how amazing they thought the story was. That was a highlight for me, where it's clear it's reached people and everyone is happy about it and it's a positive story for them."
Video: Ayres on using his spotlight moment for a good cause
Ayres, who had a kidney transplant in 2004, said he has had people reach out about doing a book, movie or documentary. But for now, he said he intends to focus on speaking engagements to promote awareness for organ donation.
On March 6 he will be at a home game for Saskatoon of the Western Hockey League to promote organ donation. He also plans to appear at events for a hospital in Buffalo and for kidney foundations in Houston and North Carolina.
"I'm kind of hoping to speak a little bit to people who have had kidney transplants to let them know the ins and outs from the time I got sick up until now," Ayres said.
Ayres' wife, Sarah, said she visited the Hall of Fame about five years ago, before she met David. To see her husband honored, she said, is still hard to comprehend.
"The fact that this has even happened is crazy. Looking at his stick right now in the case, it's so weird," Sarah Ayres said. "We've talked before about what would happen if he got called into a game and we honestly thought maybe a couple of interviews or something, but never ever anything like what has happened."