Jorge Alves, the Carolina Hurricanes' 37-year-old equipment manager, made his NHL debut Saturday evening, and it was an emotional moment he said he'll never forget.
Earlier this season, Minnesota Wild winger Pat Cannone made his NHL debut at the age of 30. And almost any other season, he would have been the oldest player to see NHL ice for the first time in their career.
But then Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Eddie Lack fell ill before Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and with short notice and no one to fill the backup role, 37-year-old Jorge Alves, the Hurricanes’ equipment manager, got the call to throw on his gear. That alone would have been more than enough for a fun story about an unexpected NHLer, but Alves’ tale got even better when he actually saw action for a few seconds to close out the contest.
That’s right: at age 37, the Hurricanes’ 5-foot-7 equipment manager saw NHL action in a meaningful game, albeit less than 10 seconds. After a stoppage in play with 7.6 seconds left in Saturday’s game — a contest which Carolina was trailing 3-1 — Hurricanes coach Bill Peters tapped Alves to send him into the game.
While Alves didn’t actually need to stop any rubber, the 7.6 seconds is enough that he will be credited with suiting up in an NHL contest, which is more than thousands of big-league hopefuls around the world can ever say.
The moment came about unexpectedly, too. Alves was heading off the bench when Peters called for the backup netminder to grab his gear and head in. Alves said he would remember the moment Peters told him to go in forever and admitted that the emotion of the moment got the best of him post-game.
"There were a lot of times, just thinking about the situation, looking down at the crest on my jersey and realizing what was happening. It just got really emotional, especially what happened at the end of the game," Alves said, according to the Hurricanes’ website. "That's something I never expected. After the game, as I was taking my stuff off, I couldn't hold it back anymore. It was real. It happened."
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