Editor’s Note: This week’s theme at SB Nation is sports moments that made you cry, so here at Canes Country we’ll be looking back at some of those Hurricanes moments that brought tears to our eyes. Today we take a look at the story of Jorge Alves, a 37-year-old equipment manager that fulfilled a lifelong dream of playing in the NHL.
At some point in their life, every young hockey player holds the same dream. They dream of putting on an NHL jersey, taking the ice alongside the best players in the world and playing the game they love in front of the bright lights and roaring crowds of an NHL stadium. It’s a dream many have had and very few have ever gotten close to reaching, but it’s a universal dream nonetheless.
That dream was realized by Hurricanes’ equipment manager turned backup goalie Jorge Alves on New Year’s Eve 2016, as Carolina’s longtime unsung hero in the clubhouse made his way onto NHL ice for 7.6 seconds that he and all Hurricanes fans will never forget. At 37-years old, Alves had fulfilled his hockey dream.
Carolina’s actual backup goalie, Eddie Lack, got sick the day of the Dec. 31 game in Tampa. The Charlotte Checkers were up in Winnipeg, way too far away for a goalie to get down to Florida in time for the game. Carolina turned to a man within its own locker room to fill the backup goalie void, making Alves an NHL player with a contract for the night.
The game that night didn’t go the Hurricanes’ way, but it did set up the perfect opportunity for Alves to get some ice time, even if it was for just 7.6 seconds. Cam Ward started the game in net, surrendering three goals to the lightning to put the Canes in a 3-0 hole. Sebastian Aho scored in the third period to make it 3-1, but the final minute came and went without Carolina drawing it any closer.
A stoppage on the ice with 7.6 seconds gave Canes’ head coach Bill Peters the opportunity to send Alves out on the ice, and he officially entered the NHL history books as a goaltender. Alves saw no action in his brief NHL career, the puck stayed on the other side of the ice, but he had been on the ice during an NHL game.
The moment was surreal for Alves and Hurricanes fans, a story that stole the headlines across the sports world. The dream of so many had been reached by an equipment manager, a hardworking team employee that could never have imagined he’d get his shot at playing for the team he did so much for.
“This is the brightest stage in our sport,” said Alves in the days that followed his moment of fame. “To have the honor to do this, everybody dreams about it. Even just working out and running, I’m always thinking about it. What if it ever happened? What would I do? How would I react? And then when it actually did happen, I kind of went blank.”
Alves’ story obviously starts way before he joined the Canes on the ice in that 3-1 loss to end 2016. He grew up in Stoughton, Massachusetts and began playing hockey in his teenage years. After high school, Alves joined the Marine Corps, where he served for four years. The Marines is what brought him to North Carolina.
After the Marines, Alves attended NC State where he played goalie for the club hockey team. He joined the Hurricanes as an equipment manager during the 2003-04 season, but wouldn’t join full time until 2012.
During his years of service behind the scenes for the Canes, Alves often filled a net for the team during practice. Along with taking care of skates, uniforms and sticks, Alves stood in goal and took shots from professional hockey players for years.
“It was a big day for Jorge,” said Jordan Staal of Alves’ NHL appearance. “He’s taken a lot of pucks, maybe one too many around the head during practice against us. He’s worked hard for us, not only doing his normal job of being the equipment manager but being on the ice for us and taking pucks, making us better. It was a good day to see him be able to get out there and dress up for our team.”
Alves is beloved by everybody in the Hurricanes organization. He’s an all-around great guy who has put in tireless work for a franchise he has now been with for 17 years. To see him get on the ice in an NHL game, to fulfill that childhood fantasy, was an awesome moment for the team and fans alike.
The more you hear about Alves and who he is as a person, the greater this story becomes. The Hurricanes may have lost on Dec. 31, 2016, but nobody remembers that part. What will forever be remembered is Alves, and the day a normal, hard-working guy got to strap on his blockers in an NHL game.