Kyle Bukauskas Notebook: ‘Something weird’ happened last Saturday night

Watch as the Carolina Hurricanes players come off the bench to congratulate emergency backup goalie David Ayres on his first NHL win.

In his notebook, Sportsnet’s Kyle Bukauskas will give you a peek behind the curtain and share stories about what he sees and hears in his job as a rink side reporter.

Based in Ottawa, Kyle’s notes will sometimes be about the Senators, but he’ll also include content from wherever Hockey Night in Canada takes him.

Here’s this week’s collection:

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1. Our producer on Saturday nights, Sherali Najak, sat in the meal room at Scotiabank Arena a few hours before the Maple Leafs hosted the Carolina Hurricanes last weekend. He’s not one who spends much time trying to predict the future, but he couldn’t help but say to a few members of our production crew, “something just feels off. Something weird is going to happen tonight.”

Surely, no one could have anticipated “something weird” being David Ayres, a 42-year-old Zamboni driver, playing nearly half an NHL game and picking up the win against Toronto on Hockey Night in Canada.

It was one of those nights where you don’t fully realize the magnitude of what you’re witnessing or covering until the show is over and you take a second to exhale. As I made my way over to the hallway outside the visitor’s locker room with time winding down in the third period, one of the arena staffers stationed outside the room said, “I’ve been doing this for 42 years…I’ve never seen anything like this.”

As the Hurricanes came off the ice after the game, it was as if they had just won a playoff series. The roars, the high fives, Jordan Martinook chanting “Davey! Davey! Davey!” To think some 90 minutes before then, outside of Jake Gardiner perhaps, no one on the Canes would have had a clue who Ayres was. By the end of the night, it was as if he was one of them.

2. With the Ayres storyline taking over the show last Saturday, we didn’t have time to discuss another folk hero among the “Caniacs”…Hamilton the Pig!

Hamilton became a good luck charm of sorts in Carolina during the playoffs last year, was a guest on Hockey Night and remains all-in on his beloved Hurricanes. He’s got a full gameday routine complete with multiple breakfasts, stretching, rooting and of course, a pre-game nap.

One might say the day a 42-year-old Zamboni driver becomes 1-0 in his NHL career as a goalie is the day pigs fly, but as far as I know, Hamilton kept his feet on the ground last weekend.

3. The Canucks practised for about 45 minutes on Wednesday afternoon in Ottawa. The last two guys to come off the ice were Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson, well over a half hour after Travis Green blew the final whistle.

Pettersson had just one shot on goal on four attempts Tuesday against the Canadiens and came up empty handed. He spent the extra time Wednesday shooting. Then shot some more, and some more after that.

“I just want to hit the net every time,” Pettersson said. “I feel good right now, but when you get chances like I did (Tuesday) and miss the net, it’s frustrating.”

Pettersson is three goals shy of the 28 he scored in his rookie season last year, and who’s to say he doesn’t match that total Thursday against the Senators? His lone career hat trick (so far) came in his first visit to the Nation’s Capital last season, after all.

4. Jean-Gabriel Pageau went for dinner in Columbus with some members of the Senators on Sunday night, hours before he was eventually traded to the Islanders. Pageau, understandably, wasn’t himself as he left the table multiple times to take calls from his agent. He was still hopeful a deal could get done to stay in Ottawa. It didn’t happen.

The next day, he told reporters he was puking that night as the uncertainty of his future reached another level.

Aside from a win, Pageau couldn’t have asked for a better debut on Long Island. A goal and a scrap in defence of a teammate, all against the rival Rangers no less. Isles fans have already adopted the “Pageau!” chants that were once the soundtrack to some unforgettable playoff moments the local boy provided to Ottawa over the years.

For all the off-ice issues and drama that unfolded around the Sens in recent years, Pageau never complained, at least publicly. He never added fuel to the fire, didn’t look for a way out, just put his head down and tried to be part of the solution.

Best of luck to him in his new chapter.

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