Jorge Alves, dressed in his goalie gear and on the ice for the Carolina Hurricanes, is not an uncommon sight.
If Cam Ward needs a breather at practice, Alves is ready.
If the Canes are down a goalie at practice, Alves is ready.
When the players arrive in early September for voluntary workouts at Raleigh Center Ice, Alves often is in net.
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Alves in an NHL game is something altogether different. When Canes coach Bill Peters sent him into the game Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, he became a goaltender of record in a National Hockey League game at age 37.
Even in a rough-and-tumble sport like hockey, it was the kind of moment that had lumps in throats on the Carolina bench. Just 7.6 seconds on the ice for Alves, but long enough to provide a memory of a lifetime.
Alves is one of the Canes’ equipment managers, working alongside Bob Gorman and Skip Cunningham. Photos of him in his goalie gear Saturday, still sharpening skates and taping sticks during the game while serving as the backup to Ward, quickly went viral on social media.
But here are some things about Alves you might not know:
▪ That he entered the Marine Corps after graduating from high school in Stoughton, Mass., going to boot camp at Parris Island and undergoing jungle training in Japan.
▪ That his active enlistment ended two months before Sept. 11, 2001, and he considered re-enlisting with so many of his buddies headed to Iraq.
▪ That he first played for the N.C. State club hockey team, and later with so many minor-league hockey teams that he was nicknamed “The Suitcase.”
▪ That he received a 2006 Stanley Cup ring from the Hurricanes after their run to the Cup.
Alves once said the ring proved to be a quick talking point when he joined a team — say the Fayetteville FireAntz or Asheville Aces or Twin City Cyclones.
As he put it, “Players would ask, ‘What is that?’ I’ll say, ‘Oh, just my Stanley Cup ring.’ ”
Alves kept his dream of playing professional hockey alive for many years. Ward once noted that whenever he saw Alves, “I’m reminded of the movie ‘Rudy.’ He’s very determined.”
But with a family to support, Alves eventually settled for the security of working full-time with the Canes in 2012 and helping out in practice when he could.
He met his wife, Amanda, on his 20th birthday at an old Raleigh nightspot called The Club Zone, which later became the RecZone ice rink and now is Raleigh Center Ice. The couple has two children, Madison and Jaxon.
So much has changed for Alves since that memorable 20th birthday. One thing that hasn’t changed is that he’s one of the hardest-working people in the Canes organization, doing whatever is needed, the ultimate handyman.
After a practice at RCI a few years ago, with Alves again in net helping out, Ward noted, “You see him out there competing and he looks like an NHL goalie on the other side.”
On Saturday afternoon, when backup goalie Eddie Lack fell ill, the Canes needed an NHL goalie. Alves signed a professional tryout contract. Peters called it the “perfect storm of opportunity” and come game time at the Lightning’s Amalie Arena, he had on the white Carolina jersey and was on the bench..
The Canes lost the game 3-1 and no one was happy with the outcome. But there were a lot of happy people in the Canes locker room.
As Peters said, “It couldn’t happen to a better guy.”