Scattershooting on a Tuesday evening after spending time on Monday with Sabrina . . .

Scattershooting

If you’re wondering, Dave Ayres and his wife, Sarah, are expected back in the Toronto area today (Wednesday) after being feted in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday. You will recall that Ayres, who had a kidney transplant in 2004, is the EBUG (emergency backup goaltender) who helped the Carolina Hurricanes beat the host Toronto Maple Leafs, 6-3, on Saturday night. . . . They are expected to be back in Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night where he again will be the EBUG, this time with the Vancouver Canucks in to play the Maple Leafs. . . . You don’t suppose that he might . . . nah, never happen.


BoardingPass


Congrats to Trevor Weisgerber, the head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Weisgerber, 40, who underwent a kidney transplant in St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon on Jan. 26, has been named winner of the Joe Bloski Award as the league’s coach of the year. . . . The Warriors went 30-13-1 and tied for fourth place in the 12-team league, one point out of third and seven short of first. They will open a first-round playoff series against the visiting Notre Dame Hounds on Thursday. . . . Weisgerber told me on Tuesday that “I am feeling pretty good . . . the fun begins on Thursday!” . . . If you aren’t familiar with Weisgerber’s story, you will find it all right here.



Grant Rezansoff, who played two seasons (1979-81) with the WHL’s Victoria Cougars, died on Saturday at his home in Red Wing, Minn. A native of Surrey, B.C., he was 58. . . . In his second season with the Cougars, he scored 40 goals and added 57 assists. . . . After moving on from the WHL, Rezansoff played in the International and Central leagues before spending two seasons in Europe. . . . There is a complete obituary right here.


Disneyland


The New York Mets are paying Bobby Bonilla, who last played in 2001, a total of $1,193, 248.20 a year until 2035. Now we are free to wonder if the NHL is headed into the same territory. . . . At the NHL trade deadline, it was pointed out that the Buffalo Sabres are paying D Christian Ehrhoff the nice sum of $857,143 per year until 2028. He last played with the Sabres in 2013-14 and was last in the NHL in 2015-16 with the Chicago Blackhawks. . . . Meanwhile, F Ilya Kovalchuk, who has gone from the Los Angeles Kings to the Montreal Canadiens to the Washington Capitals in the past few weeks, is taking up cap space on four different NHL teams, with the New Jersey Devils also in the Payin’ Ilya Club.


GiftCard


Until reading a book titled Major Misconduct: The Human Cost of Fighting in Hockey, by Jeremy Allingham, I wasn’t aware that former Seattle Thunderbirds/Kelowna Rockets enforcer James McEwan had filed a concussion-related lawsuit against the CHL, WHL and Hockey Canada.

It turns out that the lawsuit now is more encompassing that that, as Ken Campbell of The Hockey News points out here:

“Already facing a class-action lawsuit over not paying its players a minimum wage, the three major junior leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League could soon find themselves facing a concussion lawsuit that could include hundreds, if not thousands, of former frequent fighters in junior hockey.

“What started as a lawsuit launched against the CHL, the WHL and Hockey Canada by former WHL player James McEwan in January 2019 was recently re-filed with the Supreme Court of British Columbia to include both the OHL and QMJHL. Six days after the lawsuit was re-filed, the QMJHL postponed a vote on whether or not to ban fighting, a vote that was scheduled for that day, but was moved to August.”

Campbell’s complete piece is right here.



JUST NOTES: Having heard about Sabrina Ionescu in recent days, I got a chance to watch her on a TSN channel on Monday night as her Oregon Ducks beat the host Stanford Cardinal. Earlier in the day, Ionescu had spoken at the memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gigi — Ionescu was close with both of them. She also was fighting a flu bug and apparently was sick to her stomach before the game. The 5-foot-11 point guard then went out and led the Ducks to victory, in the process becoming the first player, male or female, in NCAA Division 1 history to have career totals of at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. Yes, she is quite a player. Try to tune in if the Ducks are on TV again. . . . How goofy has the NHL’s trade deadline day become? Here’s Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports, singling out one incident from Monday: “The best moment of the day came when Johnny Gaudreau inexplicably left the ice at the Calgary Flames practice, leading everyone to freak out and speculate. It turns out he just had to pee. Trade deadline day is the best.”

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while realizing Dave Ayres is getting more than 15 minutes . . .

Scattershooting

The sporting world was still abuzz on Sunday, the day after the night when goaltender Dave Ayres, 42, came on in relief in his NHL debut and helped the Carolina Hurricanes to a 6-3 victory over the host Toronto Maple Leafs.

What I find most interesting in Ayres’ post-game world is that so many writers have made a bigger deal about his being a Zamboni driver than the fact that he underwent a kidney transplant.

Time after time, you will read something like this: “Ayres, a 42-year-old Zamboni driver . . .” And, later, you’ll see this: “Ayres, who underwent a kidney transplant . . .”

This is why the renal community continues to work hard on educating people on things like this — yes, Ayres underwent a kidney transplant in 2004, but he still has kidney disease. There isn’t a cure for kidney disease. Once you’ve got it, there’s no divorce. Dialysis is a treatment. A transplant is a treatment.

Ayres, whose transplanted kidney came from his mother, will be on anti-rejection medications for the rest of his life.

In the meantime, I look forward to someone doing a story on how Ayres dealt with kidney disease, dialysis and the early days after his transplant.

Ayres flew into New York City on Sunday evening. On Monday, the Hurricanes have Ayres lined up for media hits with the likes of NBC’s Today Show, Golic & Wingo on ESPN Radio/ESPN 2, Fox & Friends, CBS Sports Radio, Dan Patrick Show, Dan Le Batard Show and CNN World Sport.

Later Monday, Ayres will head for Raleigh, N.C., where the Hurricanes are to meet the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night. Besides being saluted by the team and its fans, Ayres will serve as the pre-game Siren Sounder.

On top of that, Mary-Ann Baldwin, the mayor of Raleigh, as proclaimed Tuesday as David Ayres Day.

Immediately after the game, the Hurricanes announced that t-shirts with their logo on the front and Ayres’ name and number (90) on the back were for sale — at US$28 a pop. At one point on Sunday, sales went over 4,000. A portion of the proceeds are to go to a kidney foundation of his choosing.

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Once a year, I join a few friends for an evening of sports trivia. As luck would have it, our 2020 gathering took place on Friday night.

One of the questions asked was this: “Who is the oldest rookie in NHL regular-season history?” . . . The answer was D Connie (Mad Dog) Madigan, who played his first NHL game with the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 6, 1973. He was 38 years and four months old when he played in a 3-3 tie with the Montreal Canadiens.

While that was the correct answer on Friday, it wouldn’t have been just 24 hours later. The answer now is G Dave Ayres, who made his NHL debut with the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night at the age of 42 years 194 days. Ayres underwent a kidney transplant in 2004.

BTW, the record-holder before Madigan came along was F Bob Barlow, who made his NHL debut with the Minnesota North Stars at the age of 34 on Oct. 12, 1969.

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If you are at all into hockey history, you will want to read this piece right here from puckstruck.com. It chronicles the NHL career of Morrie Roberts, who like Dave Ayres also served as an EBUG. However, that was in 1928.


Road


A couple of questions from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “With the spectre of opposing pitchers plunking Houston Astros hitters at a record rate over the team’s sign-stealing scandal, just have to ask: Will Houston’s promotional giveaways include Astros Replica Jersey Night, sponsored by Target? By season’s end, will Houston — not Boston — be laying claim to the title of ‘Bean Town’?”


Mike Lupica, in the New York Daily News: “It is interesting that the same people who thought drug cheating in baseball was just the cost of doing business now seem to think that sign-stealing cheating is the crime of the century. At least we might have a possible new baseball novel come out of this whole mess: ‘Bang the Can Slowly’.”


Turkey


Greg Robinson, an offensive lineman who played last season with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, was arrested earlier in the week near the U.S.-Mexico border. Among other things, he had 157 pounds of week in his vehicle. As Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports noted: “(Police) also found 23 mason jars, a can sealing machine, an electronic scale and over $3,000 in cash. It would seem that either there was some entrepreneurship going on or Robinson was on his way to the greatest party ever.” . . . WR Quan Bray, last of the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes, was with Robinson at the time. Whoops! . . . As the afore-mentioned Perry put it about Bray: “So much for trying to shake his reputation as just a possession receiver.”


There had been reports that the QMJHL’s board of governors would vote during a Thursday meeting on whether to ban fighting. Stephane Leroux of RDS reported Thursday afternoon that the vote wouldn’t take place.

Michael Roy of Radio-Canada reported that “there was no vote, but a lot of discussion.” Roy also tweeted that “the file will be on the menu . . . at a meeting in August.”

A story carrying a Canadian Press byline included this quote from Gilles Courteau, the QMJHL’s commissioner: “My main goal is to implement new rules to improve player safety. That’s the focal point of this discussion. Whether it’s fighting, blind-side hits, head shots, we’re carefully looking at all of that.”

It also included this from Sherbrooke Phoenix general manager Ronald Thibault: “It may sound strange, but what we’re trying to do is keep our players safe. There are divergent opinions on how to protect players. That’s it.”

Of course, if they really were that concerned about player safety, you would ban fighting. So would the other two major junior leagues— the WHL and the OHL.

The complete CP story is right here.

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On the topic of fighting in major junior hockey, here is part of a blog entry by Ken Campbell of The Hockey News:

“Junior hockey does not believe the debate is at all nuanced when it comes to paying its players a living wage. All three major junior leagues are very clear on that one. But when it comes to their ‘student athletes’ giving and receiving bareknuckle punches to the head it suddenly becomes a vexing dilemma for them?

“Like any other league, the QMJHL could have easily increased the penalties for fighting. Actually, it’s a lot easier for one of Canada’s three junior leagues to do it because none of them has to deal with a players’ association or go through the approval of a rules committee. The omnipotent rule they hold over these young men is astounding, so perhaps it’s time they used it for something good.”

Campbell’s complete piece is right here.


Marriage


Have I mentioned how much I love The Sports Curmudgeon, aka Jack Finarelli? After the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers moved on from head coach John Beilein just 54 games into his stay, the curmudgeonly one pointed out that the Cavs have a 130-318 record (.290) in recent times without LeBron James. TSC then came up with three possible explanations as to why things are so rotten in Cleveland, which, you may recall, also is home to the NFL’s Browns: “Something in the Cleveland water supply causes coaches to fail . . . An ancient civilization hexed the land there for eternity. . . . Ownership for the two franchises is well short of competency.” . . . As he put it: “You make the call . . .”


The Oakland A’s won’t have any of their games available on a Bay Area radio station this season, as they become the first team in Major League Baseball to make such a move. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, team president Dave Kaval has said, among other things, “we’re excited” and “we’re trying to be innovative” and “we’re . . . trying to attract younger fans” and “I think this is the direction of the future.” . . . If you live in the San Francisco/Oakland area, games will be available via streaming and they will be on some radio stations outside the area. . . . “It’s a big win,” Kaval said. . . . “No,” wrote Chronicle columnist Bruce Jenkins. “Try two other words: colossal failure.”



JUST NOTES: Is there a better anthem singer anywhere in the sporting world than Lauren Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers? All she does is sing, without any of the extras. . . . Chris Speier, a flash from the past for followers of the Montreal Expos, is on manager Dusty Baker’s staff with the Houston Astros. Speier has signed on as a “quality control coach.” With the mess surrounding the Astros, Speier is likely to have lots on his plate. . . . The Toronto Blue Jays opened their spring training schedule with games on Saturday, against the New York Yankees, and Sunday (Minnesota Twins). Both games were on Sportsnet, which picked up the feeds from the Yankees and Twins rather than have their own crew in place. Interesting?

Years after kidney transplant, Ayres gets first NHL win in debut . . . Helps Hurricanes beat Maple Leafs on night to remember



If you are part of the organ transplant community, the Saturday night NHL game that had the Carolina Hurricanes meeting the Maple Leafs in Toronto really was one to remember.

You can bet that the NHL pooh-bahs won’t have found it overly entertaining, but it was . . . it really was!

After all, it’s not every night when you get to watch a 42-year-old Zamboni driver who has had a kidney transplant play goal in an NHL game. Not only did Dave Ayres, at the age of 42 years 194 days, tend goal, but he ended up with the victory, stopping eight of 10 shots as the Hurricanes won, 6-3.

Ayres became the second-oldest goaltender in NHL history to win in his NHL debut. The first? Lester Patrick, then the general manager and head coach of the New York Rangers, was in goal for a 2-1 OT victory over the Montreal Maroons in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final on March 20, 1927. Patrick was 44 years and 99 days old. For the record, Patrick stopped 18 of 19 shots.

Ayres did set one NHL record as the oldest goaltender to win his regular-season debut. Hugh (Old Eagle Eyes) Lehman of the Chicago Black Hawks was 41 years 21 days when he won his first game in 1926-27.

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In our home, it all began when I saw the above tweet and words “kidney transplant” jumped off my computer screen.

I hadn’t yet flipped over to the NHL game in Toronto. However, after seeing this tweet, I immediately changed the channel. I was just in time to see Carolina G Petr Mrázek go down in a collision with Toronto F Kyle Clifford at 11:19 of the second period. The Hurricanes had lost G James Reimer at 3:07 of the opening period in a collision that resulted in Mrázek entering and Ayres having to get into his goaltending gear.

But now Mrázek was hurt and the rest, as they say, became history.

If you didn’t see the game, the Hurricanes held a 3-1 lead when Ayres entered, and they quickly made it 4-1. But the Maple Leafs scored goals on their first two shots on Ayres as the Hurricanes struggled to get to the intermission with a lead.

They were able to do that, then scored two early third-period goals to stretch their 4-3 lead to 6-3 and give Ayres some breathing room. Ayres was steady in the third period, while his new teammates really shut down the home side, much to the dismay of the crowd.

During the second intermission, I headed for the Internet to find out what I could about Ayres. I didn’t care about his hockey-playing background; I wanted to know about his kidney issues.

I found this from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, from the Nov. 18, 2019, edition of The Globe and Mail:

“Like many kids growing up in Canada, Dave Ayres wanted to play hockey in the NHL.

“He was 25 and at a hockey training camp when his feet became so swollen he couldn’t put on his skates. Then one day while driving, he became so dizzy he nearly hit someone.

“It was Thanksgiving weekend when he ended up in the ER. His kidneys were working at 15 per cent capacity and he had to start dialysis immediately. Three days a week, four hours at a time, for the next seven months.

“Then in May, he came to St. Michael’s Hospital’s Kidney Transplant and Care Centre, where he received a new kidney, courtesy of his mom.”

A native of Whitby, Ont., Ayres underwent a kidney transplant in 2004. After donning gear for an outdoor practice with the Maple Leafs just last month, he told Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun about those days:

“I told the doctor at St. Michael’s Hospital I needed to get back because I was supposed to go to the (Central Hockey League’s) Laredo Bucks. They said ‘we’ll try our best’ and my Mom (Mary) was a match. They ended up moving me along pretty quick (for the operation), about a year after I got sick.”

In his other life, Ayres drives the Zamboni at the Coca-Cola Coliseum, the home of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. He also has been on the ice with the Marlies and Maple Leafs on occasion, as he was for the outdoor practice.

In yet another twist to this story, Ayres told media after Saturday’s game that he is scheduled to practice with the Maple Leafs on Monday. I am thinking that practice session just might draw a bit of press coverage.

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Here’s more from St. Michael’s Hospital:

“Dave’s case is not unusual, but he was one of the lucky ones. In Canada, one in 10 people has kidney disease — that’s the population of Vancouver and Calgary combined. It’s a chronic disease with no chance of remission. And it’s considered a silent killer because there are few symptoms — apart from the swelling and dizziness, like in Dave’s case, there can be fatigue, chills, back pain, itching — but it’s still difficult to detect. With an aging population, increas­ing rates of obesity and high blood pressure, and an epidemic of diabetes (the leading cause of kidney disease), the numbers are only going up.

“Some people can live with kidney disease for years, and many do — when it’s caught early enough and treated properly. But in too many cases, the kidneys fail, leaving only two options: dialysis or a kidney transplant. “Dialysis can take over a person’s life. And it’s not a life saver: half of patients 65 years of age and older starting dialysis today will not be alive in five years. And while transplant is by far the best solution, 3,600 Canadians are on the waiting list. It’s not a permanent fix either: a kidney from a deceased donor will last on average 10 to 15 years, and from a living donor 15 to 20 years.”

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Shortly after game’s end, the Hurricanes announced that t-shirts with Ayres’ name and number (90) already were available via their online shop and that a portion of the proceeds will be going to a kidney foundation.

As I have written about here previously, kidney disease isn’t going away. There isn’t a cure — a transplant really is just a form of treatment. But what is needed more than anything is more education. People from all walks of life need to understand that while there isn’t a cure, you can have kidney disease and get on with your life; if you are fortunate enough to have a transplant, you don’t have to forget about your dreams.

Dave Ayres is proof of that.


Roy Cooper is the governor of North Carolina:

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If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca