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Ayres: Journey from kidney transplant to NHL 'hard to put into words'

Mark Blinch / National Hockey League / Getty

Following a historic game when he became the first emergency backup goalie to win an NHL contest, David Ayres took a moment to reflect on his improbable journey.

"I went through a kidney transplant 15 years ago, I never thought I was going to play hockey again at that moment," Ayres said, according to TSN's Mark Masters.

"It's unreal right now," he added. "It's hard to put into words, to be honest."

Ayres, a 42-year-old Zamboni driver for the Toronto Marlies, earned the decision for the Carolina Hurricanes in a 6-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

When netminders James Reimer and Petr Mrazek exited the matchup with injuries, Ayres was called upon for the opportunity of a lifetime.

"When I saw the text message, I was like, 'Are these guys playing with me right now? I'm going in?'" Ayres said.

After the Maple Leafs scored on their first two shots, Ayres stopped all seven he faced in the third period to collect the win. He credited the unwavering support from his teammates during the intermission for his success.

"They said, 'Have fun with it, don't worry about how many goals go in,'" Ayres recalled. "They said, 'This is your moment, have fun with it.'"

Following the game, the Hurricanes put Ayres T-shirt jerseys up for sale on their website, with a portion of the proceeds going to a kidney foundation of his choice.

After everything he's been through, the Ontario native says his love of the sport has kept him going.

"It's just a passion for the game," Ayres said. "Being 42, it's not exactly easy to stay in shape with these young kids anymore."

Ayres helped the Hurricanes earn a critical two points, as Carolina and Toronto remain in the thick of a tightly contested Eastern Conference playoff race.

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