Viral goalie David Ayres honored by North Carolina

Zamboni driver reflects on filling in as emergency NHL goalie (1:02)

Emergency backup goalie David Ayres says he was weak in the knees after having to step on the ice and play for the Hurricanes against the Maple Leafs. (1:02)

Emergency backup goaltender David Ayres -- a Canadian citizen who is an employee of the Toronto Maple Leafs -- was named an honorary North Carolinian on Tuesday by Gov. Roy Cooper.

Cooper submitted a proclamation honoring Ayres, noting that the 42-year-old Zamboni driver and kidney transplant survivor embodied the state's motto Esse Quam Videri -- which means "to be rather than to seem."

When both of the Hurricanes' goaltenders left Saturday's game in Toronto with injuries, Ayres entered as the designated emergency backup. Wearing a Hurricanes jersey and a helmet featuring Toronto hockey decals, Ayres stopped eight of 10 shots to get credit for the 6-3 win.

"The Carolina Hurricanes are currently in a battle for a spot in the National Hockey League playoffs, which will bring greater economic prosperity and further our state's reputation of excellence in sports," Cooper's proclamation read, adding that "David Ayres gave North Carolina hockey fans a memory that we will never forget" and that he "proved to be the personification of 'That's hockey, baby!'"

The Hurricanes flew Ayres to Raleigh on Tuesday after he enjoyed a full-on media blitz Monday -- which included appearances on several ESPN programs, the "Today" show and "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert." During the Late Show taping, Colbert said he pulled a hamstring and asked Ayres to instead announce the show's lineup.

Ayres was honored by the Raleigh mayor and Canes general manager Don Waddell on Tuesday morning, and his royal treatment continued after the hometown fans arrived at PNC Arena on Tuesday night. Before the game, he signed autographs on the concourse as fans filed past wearing T-shirts bearing the number 90 that he wore in Toronto as well as his name.

Minutes before the opening faceoff, Ayres smiled and waved his right hand as the crowd gave him a standing ovation while he stood in front of the siren that announces the Hurricanes' entrance onto the ice. Ayres cranked the siren, and the team returned to the ice for a new game with the hero from the previous game appropriately honored.

Ayres has been the regular practice goaltender for the Marlies -- the Toronto Maple Leafs' AHL affiliate -- and has appeared at Maple Leafs practices and skills sessions this season. As the emergency goalie, he was available to either team Saturday night, if needed. He was paid $500 as part of his contract and was allowed to keep his game-used jersey.

The NHL's general managers have their annual spring meetings next week in Boca Raton, Florida, where they are expected to discuss the emergency backup policy and whether there should be any amendments.

On Monday, Toronto GM Kyle Dubas told reporters that his team was in a "no-win situation" once Ayres came in.

"If we won the game, that would be embarrassing as well, because you're down 4-1 and then it would be a whole other set of controversy that would come up," Dubas said. "Like, 'Ah, geez, the Maple Leafs [beat their] own employee.' We were in a no-win situation."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.