The NHL’s emergency goalie system has created new celebrities, like 42-year-old former Zamboni driver David Ayres, who was thrust into action last month for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Now famous people are signing up to be emergency goalies.
Larry Walker, the longtime Colorado Rockies outfielder who was voted into the MLB Hall of Fame, will serve as the Colorado Avalanche’s honorary emergency goalie in Sunday night’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights.
The 53-year-old Walker, a native of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, grew up dreaming of becoming an NHL goalie. Walker was on the cover of the first-ever Canadian edition of Sports Illustrated in 1993. According to the cover story, “one of [Walker’s] idols was Billy Smith, the cantankerous netminder for the New York Islanders who seemed to skate around some rink holding the Stanley Cup over his head every year.”
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Walker’s NHL dreams died out, according to the Sports Illustrated article, when he was cut from two Junior A teams as a teenager. He then focused on baseball.
In Walker’s 17-year MLB career, he won seven Golden Gloves and an NL MVP award in 1997. He will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in June.
NHL general managers discussed the league’s emergency backup goaltending protocol at their meetings last week in Boca Raton, in light of the Ayres situation. Ayres, who regularly practices with the Maple Leafs, was forced to face Toronto in a game when both of the Canes goalies were injured. After allowing goals on the first two shots he faced, Ayres stopped eight straight shots to seal a win.
The NHL decided not to make any changes to their emergency backup goaltender procedure.
“At the end of the discussion, the majority was happy with where we are at on it,” NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell said. “It’s a good human-interest story. I think the process works …our general managers are fine with where it’s at right now.”