Instead of celebrating the David Ayres story the way the rest of the continent has done in the wake of the Zamboni Driver’s Closeup Moment in Toronto on Feb. 22, the Oh-So-Serious NHL Cognoscenti would ban something like this from ever happening again.
They’re going to talk about formalizing and standardizing the emergency goaltender statute at the league general managers’ meetings, which commence Monday in Boca Raton, Fla. The GMs could perhaps issue a recommendation that NHL teams be mandated to add a third non-roster goaltender to the traveling party, who meets certain age and experience specifications and would go into a game if the club’s two roster goalies are incapacitated, as occurred with the Hurricanes last weekend.
The NHL usually gets this kind of coverage across the States when there is a stick-swinging incident or a case of coach-player abuse. In other words, hockey breaks the glass ceiling only for pretty bad news. Or, in this case, unique news like Ayres, the 42-year-old Zamboni driver and practice goalie for the AHL Marlies and Maple Leafs who recorded eight saves on 10 shots in 28:41 in the Hurricanes’ 6-3 victory over his NHL employers.
Though the rest of the continent marveled at this Lifetime Movie Moment co-starring Mrs. Sarah Ayres, the Oh-So-Serious went about drumming the joy out of the moment and reminding everyone that the NHL is Serious Business, and how could such an old guy be allowed to play without wearing a heart monitor, and what are his bona fides, and how could he actually play against a team that employs him?
That last point is actually the most relevant — for the optics wouldn’t be particularly feel-good if, say, on the final day of the season with a playoff spot in the balance, a 38-year-old emergency goalie employed by the Rangers had to go in and play for their Game 82 opponent, the Blackhawks.
No, seriously, the employee-versus-employer storyline is a difficult one, though it doesn’t seem to bother anyone when teams pick up large portions of contracts on players who routinely compete against them. So maybe there should be a rule that prohibits team or franchise employees acting as emergency goalies for visiting teams. That would require the presence of a second emergency goalie in the stands in at least Toronto.
Research by James Mirtle of The Athletic indicates emergency goalies have entered games twice in 55 years since NHL clubs were required to carry two goaltenders. The other was a 36-year-old accountant in Chicago two years ago. That is hardly reason to require teams to travel with a third goalie, who apparently would provide other basic functions on the trip that are not covered by anyone else with the traveling party. Maybe some coding between taking shots. And would coaches be tasked with finding practice time for the third emergency goalie?
And if teams are paying these emergency goalies say, $100,000 per, would that be applied as payroll expense to be applied against the players’ share of revenue? I’m guessing the league will think that’s exactly what should happen.
The NHL had a great, unscripted moment last Saturday. Much like the Olympics, it appealed to a broad audience. Rather than reveling in it as an industry, the Oh-So-Serious want to ensure that something like this can never happen again. Of course.
So I am browsing through my program from the Feb. 11, 1959, match at the Garden between the Rangers and Bruins — what can I tell you, I’m between the biographies of Hamilton and Churchill — and here on Page 6, I come upon a piece written by The Post’s Leonard Cohen about Joe Schaefer — the MSG house goalie of the day.
“Though he’s crowding 34, and has 200 pounds spread generously over his 5-11 frame, Joe says he’s in good condition,” Cohen reported. “ ‘I think I could do a respectable job if I were used in an emergency. I skate a lot and in the summer I play a lot of softball to stay in shape.’ ”
At the time, Schaefer bemoaned the fact he’d never gotten into a game in his six years on the job. But the Long Island native got into a pair of games within two years. Schaefer made his NHL debut for the Rangers on Feb. 17, 1960, allowing five goals on 22 shots in 39:38 after replacing Gump Worsley in a 5-1 loss to the Blackhawks. Just over a year later, on March 8, 1961, Schaefer allowed three goals on 30 shots in 49:24 replacing the Gumper in a 4-3 defeat to, again, the Blackhawks.
But here’s an interesting note: After Schaefer had more than one, Marcel Pelletier became the Rangers’ emergency goalie. He also got into two games, both in 1962-63 and both also against the Blackhawksfollowing injuries to Worsleybut one of the games, Dec. 2, 1962, was in Chicago.
Maybe the Rangers did set the template almost six decades ago by bringing an emergency goaltender on the road.