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Volume 23 No. 29
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CAA Sports now reps hockey’s unlikely hero

CAA Sports has signed David Ayres, the former Zamboni driver who became an overnight national celebrity after he came in as an emergency backup goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes and led them to a win last month.

CAA Hockey co-head Pat Brisson, a powerful NHL player agent who counts Sidney Crosby among his clients, will lead a team of agents representing Ayres. CAA Sports will represent Ayres, the first emergency goalie to win a game in NHL history, in all areas.

Also representing Ayres will be Jen Entin, CAA Hockey head of marketing and management, and agents Laura Keegan, Rachel Feucht, Adam Biren, Dana Spector and Jonas Brooks.

Brisson was watching hockey at home on Feb. 22, like he does every Saturday night, when Ayres, 42, was brought in to goaltend for the Hurricanes against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena.

Ayres was called into the game from the stands, where he was eating a sandwich, during the second period after Carolina’s two goalies were both injured. NHL rules state that if both of a team’s goalkeepers are incapacitated, the team can dress and play any available goalkeeper who is eligible. In this case, that was Ayers, who was available in an emergency for either team.

“At that point, I thought for sure the Leafs were going to win the game, and that the goalie was going to get drilled by the Leafs’ offensive powerhouse,” Brisson said.

Ayres did allow the first two shots on goal in, but blocked the next eight, and the Hurricanes won on the 40th anniversary of the 1980 USA men’s hockey team winning Olympic gold, another miracle on ice.

David Ayres used his emergency role to help seal a win for the Hurricanes.
Photo: getty images

Brisson has represented six No. 1 overall picks in the NHL draft, including 2013’s Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche but says he is not signing Ayres for playing work. “No, not at all. Instead I saw an opportunity for someone to be represented and protected knowing how many people would be reaching out,” he said. “I saw the need to explore opportunities for him, who like most people, is not experienced in that field.”

CAA Hockey is approaching Ayres’ marketing opportunities in the same way the agency does with active NHL players, Entin said. “We are looking at everything from trading cards and memorabilia to licensed goods and brands that want to share his story as part of a larger marketing campaign or brand initiative,” she said. Other potential opportunities include speaking engagements, books, and film and television, she said.

Ayres is the operations manager for Mattamy Athletic Centre, the former Maple Leaf Gardens, where he once drove the ice-resurfacing Zamboni truck for the Leafs’ minor-league affiliate. 

Since his shocking win, Ayres has appeared on numerous television programs including  “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “The Today Show,” and “Good Morning America.”

CAA Sports is part of entertainment giant Creative Artists Agency, and that may prove to be fortunate as Ayres has quite a story to tell. He had always dreamed of playing pro hockey, but that ended when he had a kidney transplant in his 20s. He’s survived skin cancer, too. And at age 42, he survived numerous pucks shot at him from NHL players at 90 to 100 miles per hour.

“Dave is really giving us an opportunity to find a connection between the hockey and entertainment sides of the agency business,” Brisson said. “Following that Saturday night and early the next week, after seeing him on ‘Good Morning America,’ I started getting calls from various producers around town who know of my hockey experience. There are many opportunities for him in entertainment considering how unbelievable the story is,” he said.  

PRIORITY SIGNS NFL DRAFT CLASS: Priority Sports & Entertainment has signed multiple prospects for the NFL draft, including Notre Dame safety Alohi Gilman and Cal linebacker Evan Weaver.

Priority also signed Ohio State offensive lineman Branden Bowen, N.C. State defensive end James Smith-Williams, Ball State offensive lineman Danny Pinter, Northwestern defensive end Joe Gaziano, Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke, Ohio State defensive tackle Jashon Cornell, Baylor defensive back Graylon Arnold, Oregon tight end Jake Breeland, and North Central College quarterback Broc Rutter. Agents Mike McCartney, Kenny Zuckerman, Kyle Dolan and Jayme Moten are representing the players.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.