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Upper Deck even put Ayres on a card!
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Top Photo: Upper Deck even put Ayres on a card!

Many kids have dreams of playing professional sports when they grow up. One guy recently got to make his childhood dream come true when he made his professional hockey debut—at 42 years old.

Dave Ayres, a former ZAMBONI driver and building operations manager at an athletic center, made his NHL debut for the Carolina Hurricanes in Toronto and was key to helping the team win. Ayres was called in to play as the emergency backup goaltender. The NHL requires that home teams have an emergency goalie in attendance for every game who is available to either team.

After the Hurricane’s goalie and backup goalie were both injured, Ayres was surprised to learn he was making his professional debut during the second period.

“I was confident until I hit the ice, and then I got terrified,” Ayres said with a laugh during a television interview after the game. “I just wanted to make sure I got on the ice and didn’t fall down.”

Ayres made history by becoming the oldest goalie in NHL history to win his regular season debut. What’s even more impressive about his story is that he thought his hockey career was over completely after a kidney transplant when he was 27.

After the game, Ayres got a standing ovation from the crowd of 18,000 people. He received a $500 paycheck for the game and was allowed to keep his game jersey. Ayres said his stick will be sent to the  Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. The Hurricanes also started selling No. 90 jerseys with Ayres’ name stitched on the back. Ayres said the team asked what he wanted to do with the proceeds and he opted to donate them to a kidney foundation in North Carolina.

“It’s not an easy thing to go through so if there’s anything I can do to help anybody out, I’m gladly in for that,” Ayres said. “I wanted to make sure that people realize, just because you have a kidney transplant doesn’t mean you can’t go on and do everything you want to.”

Remembering NASA’s Brightest Star in Math

Katherine Johnson, who worked as one of NASA’s human computers, died on Feb. 24. She was 101. The story of Johnson and other female African-American mathematicians (called computers) was brought to light in the book “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly, which was made into a movie in 2016. 

Johnson was a skilled mathematician who worked at NASA for 33 years and made important contributions to many of the earliest ORBITAL missions. She plotted the trajectories for the first American in space, Alan Shepard in 1961, the first American to orbit the Earth, John Glenn in 1962, and the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. Johnson not only helped determine launch windows, she was tasked to double-check the work of the machine computers during missions.

Born Creola Katherine Coleman on Aug. 26, 1918, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, she started high school at age 10 and graduated at 14. She then attended West Virginia State, where she had taken every math class offered by her junior year. After graduating in 1937, she became a teacher and married James Francis Goble.

She left school and work for marriage and motherhood for several years until she heard that Langley was hiring black women as mathematicians in 1952. Langley, a field center for NASA (previously the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics or NACA), had started employing white women as mathematicians in 1935, to free the male engineers from the tedium of crunching numbers by hand, often using just pencils and slide rules. 

Katherine Goble started working for NACA in 1953. After just a few weeks, she moved to the Flight Research Division where she remained for the rest of her career.

Her first husband died in 1956, and she married James A. Johnson in 1959. She retired from NASA in 1986.

Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. At the ceremony, President Barack Obama stated, “Katherine G. Johnson refused to be limited by society’s expectations of her gender and race while expanding the boundaries of humanity’s reach.”

March 2020