Colorado Avalanche New Emergency Goalie ... MLB Hall of Famer Larry Walker!!!

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There could be a baseball Hall of Famer between the pipes when the Colorado Avalanche plays on Sunday ... 'cause none other than Larry Walker will be the official emergency goalie!!!

Of course, the chances are slim the 53-year-old ex-MLB slugger will see any PT ... but it's not impossible. Walker would just have to beat out the other 2 goalies on the roster.

Remember, just 2 weeks ago, 42-year-old David Ayres -- the Carolina Hurricanes Zamboni driver -- had his name called after the team's 2 goalies got injured ... and the dude helped secure the win!!!

As for Walker, the guy ended up playing a sport with a different kinda stick and was damn good at it -- he won the National League MVP in 1997, 7 Gold Gloves and 3 Silver Sluggers.

But, baseball wasn't the only first love for the Canadian ... he grew up playing street hockey and had dreams of being an NHL goalie.

Y'all know the takeaway from this?? It's NEVER too late to chase your dreams.

Washington Capitals Puck Flies Through Tiny Window ... Bloodies NHL Photog

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Freak play in the NHL on Monday ... a puck made its way through a tiny window in the glass and hit a photog so hard in the jaw -- the dude needed a bandage to stop the bleeding.

The unlucky shot went down in the 1st period of the Capitals vs. Sabres game in Buffalo, NY ... when defenseman John Carlson tried to clear a puck by sending it up the boards.

The problem ... the puck somehow made its way into the small cutout of glass where photographers place their camera lenses through -- and it caught a man right in the face.

You can see in footage of the fluke play ... the puck went right through the window at a high speed and left the guy's chin a bloody mess.

Fortunately for the photog, KeyBank Center officials were able to get him a towel and a bandage and he stayed in the game to keep shooting the action.

The Washington Capitals certainly appreciated the resilience ... they said of the whole incident, "Photographer is a certified #HockeyGuy - gonna shoot thru the pain. #Respect"

Tough dude!!!

Henri Richard NHL Hall Of Famer Dead At 84

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Henri Richard -- one of the greatest hockey players of all time -- has died at the age of 84, the Montreal Canadiens announced Friday.

Richard holds the record for most Stanley Cup victories by an individual player (11) ... and played his entire 20-year career with the Canadiens.

"The Montreal Canadiens are saddened to learn of the passing of one of the organization's greatest legends and ambassadors, Henri Richard, this morning," the Canadiens said in a statement.

"Our thoughts and sincere condolences go out to the Richard family."

Richard -- nicknamed the Pocket Rocket -- holds the record for most games played in franchise history (1,258). He was also named in the NHL's 100 Greatest Players of All Time list, released in 2017.

Henri is the younger brother of Maurice "Rocket" Richard, whom the NHL named the goal-scoring leader trophy after.

"The family would like to sincerely thank the staff at CHSLD Résidence Riviera for their wonderful care," the team said.

"They demonstrated incredible professionalism and humanity. The family would also like to thank the public for their heartfelt condolences and kindly requests that its privacy be respected during this difficult time."

#RIP

Rangers' Mika Zibanejad Surprise Locker Room Party ... After 5-Goal Game!!!

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BROTHERLY AMBUSH
New York Rangers

How did the New York Rangers celebrate Mika Zibanejad's INSANE 5-goal game Thursday??

LOCKER ROOM SURPRISE PARTY, BABY!!!

Zibanejad could not miss in NY's game against the Washington Capitals ... netting 5 goals, including the OT winner -- and afterward, his teammates celebrated in pretty cool fashion.

They all hid in the locker room at Madison Square Garden ... and once Zibanejad walked in -- they surprised the hell out of him with a moshpit!!

Watch the clip ... the guys go pretty wild -- even dumping a whole water bottle on the star center's head!!

Zibanejad has been red hot for the Rangers this season ... scoring 38 goals and tallying 33 assists in 54 games -- but his night against the Caps was ALL-TIME great.

Five-or-more goals in one game has only been done 62 times in the sport's history ... and only 46 players have EVER done it.

By the way, if you're wondering, Wayne Gretzky scored 5 or more goals FOUR TIMES in his career!!!

Yeah, The Great One indeed.

NHL's Matthew Barnaby Arrested After Allegedly Choking Bouncer ... Crazy Mug Shot

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Former NHL star Matthew Barnaby was arrested Thursday ... he allegedly choked a bouncer during a brawl at a bar -- and the mug shot he took afterward is pretty crazy.

Here's the deal ... cops say they responded to Nashville Crossroads bar in downtown Nashville, Tenn. after they received a call about an altercation with patrons.

Once officers arrived on scene ... they say witnesses told them 46-year-old Barnaby, his girlfriend and other bar-goers had gotten into a scrap, when Matthew began choking a bouncer.

Cops say they noticed "a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage" on Barnaby's breath when they went to talk to him and say he had watery eyes and slurred speech.

Cops add the bouncer wished to press charges against the former Dallas Stars winger for the alleged choking incident ... so they arrested Matthew.

Barnaby was booked and charged with assault and public intoxication. He has a court date to face the charges set for later this month.

Of course, Barnaby was no stranger to altercations in his NHL career ... he was in dozens of on-ice fights and is known as one of the league's best all-time enforcers.

This also isn't Barnaby's first brush with the law ... ESPN famously fired the hockey analyst after he was arrested for drunk driving in 2011.

Barnaby played 14 years in the NHL ... scoring 113 goals in 834 career games.

NHL's Johnny Boychuk Slashed In Eye With Skate Blade ... 90 Stitches Needed

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BRUTAL BLADING
TSN/NHL

9:24 AM PT -- Good news, bad news for Boychuck ...

The good ... Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello says the defenseman did NOT suffer damage to his eyeball in the accident.

The bad ... the injury took 90 stitches to repair!

NO DAMAGE TO THE EYE
New York Islanders

"He felt the skate blade get his eye," Lamoriello said Wednesday morning. "But, fortunately, it just got the eyelid. It took 90 stitches to fix. A plastic surgeon took care of it."

Lou added, "He'll be fine. It's just a matter of time, with the eye opening up and him feeling good."

WARNING: THIS IS TERRIFYING!!

New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk was kicked in the face with a skate Tuesday night ... and the scene was scary as hell.

Boychuck was skating by his crease in the 3rd period of the Isles' game against the Canadians in Brooklyn ... when Habs winger Artturi Lehkonen lost his balance in front of him and kicked backward.

You can see in video of the incident ... the blade of Lehkonen's skate caught Boychuck flush in the face -- and he immediately crumpled in serious pain.

The cut was so bad ... Boychuk didn't even wait for trainers to get to him on the ice before he bolted off -- and after the game, Islanders coach Barry Trotz sounded VERY concerned for his 36-year-old D-man.

"No update on Johnny Boychuk," Trotz told reporters. "It's pretty scary obviously around the facial/eye area. He's being evaluated."

There is some positive news, however ... Johnny's older brother, David Boychuk, posted on Twitter, "A few extra zips but sounds like he should hire someone else to do his eyebrows from now on."

David added, "Really tough to see a loved one involved in a scary moment like tonight. Thankful for the big guy looking out for JB tonight."

As for the game ... the Islanders lost, 6-2 -- but team captain Anders Lee told reporters all he cared about was Johnny's health.

"I think that’s where all our minds are right now for sure."

Originally Published -- 6:24 AM PT

Nashville Predators Invite Tornado Victims to Arena ... CJ2K Vows To Help

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2:38 PM PT -- Ex-Tennessee Titans superstar Chris Johnson -- who has family in Nashville still -- tells TMZ Sports his loved ones are all okay, but he's looking to do whatever he can for those less fortunate.

"I'm currently in the process of putting a few things together to help that community because I'm from Orlando, but Tennessee is who drafted me," CJ2K tells us.

TRAGIC DAY
TMZSports.com

"Tennessee is like my second home. So, I'm definitely obligated to do something to help out my second home."

"I think I'mma do something like a GoFundMe to help build back those places that was messed up there.

The Nashville Predators are opening the doors of Bridgestone Arena to those affected by the devastating tornadoes that killed at least 22 people ... and serving pizza for everyone in attendance.

Tornadoes hit the area early Tuesday morning ... destroying part of the city and leaving many without power.

The local NHL team is stepping up to help those impacted by the tragedy ... offering pizza and a place to get away.

"We love you and we want to help," the Preds tweeted.

The Titans have also released a statement, saying, "We extend our deepest sympathies to those families who lost loved ones in the tornadoes last night and are heartbroken to see the damage across Nashville and Tennessee."

"We know the strength of our community and the Volunteer spirit that lives in us all. We will join the efforts to re-build in these areas and know our neighbors will join us."

Originally published -- 11:19 AM PT

Zamboni Goalie David Ayres Signs Deal With Upper Deck ... Gets Official Card!!!

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THIS IS AWESOME!!!

David Ayres -- the Zamboni driver who came in as an emergency goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes in an NHL game last week -- is getting his own, official trading card!!!

A spokesperson for Upper Deck tells TMZ Sports there was a SERIOUS demand for Ayres cardboard after he helped secure a win for the Canes when their top two goalies went down on Feb. 22.

So, we're told the card co. went to work ... and not only locked up an individual deal with the 42-year-old -- but made him his own, dope card quickly!!

The card features a shot of David in his gear standing in goal ... and on the back bio, it spells out exactly how Ayres turned from Zamboni driver to NHL player!!

"After giving up two quick goals," the card reads, "he stood tall and saved the next eight shots he faced, helping Carolina prevail 6-3 and earning a win in his surprise NHL debut."

Upper Deck officials say the card will be available in packs this week.

Congrats!!!

NHL's Bobby Ryan Scores Hat Trick In Emotional Return ... After Alcoholism Battle

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RYAN'S NIGHT
Courtesy of the NHL

Unbelievable moment for Senators star Bobby Ryan -- who returned to the ice in Ottawa on Thursday after taking 100 days off to get sober ... and he pulled off a HAT TRICK!!!

The 32-year-old had stepped away from the team on Nov. 20 to focus on battling alcoholism through the league's substance abuse program.

Tuesday marked 100 days of sobriety -- and Thursday night was Ryan's first game back at the Canadian Tire Centre ... where he was welcomed by adoring fans.

The energy in the place was insane -- many fans holding signs showing their support for Ryan, who was clearly touched by the love.

When the puck dropped, RYAN WENT OFF -- slapping 3 goals in a 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks!

After goal #3, the arena erupted in a standing ovation and a "BOB-BY!" chant -- you can see Bobby got choked up and had to wipe away tears from his eyes.

After the game, Ryan told reporters, "I knew Ottawa being the community that it is that the reception would be good. It just got harder to keep the emotions down throughout the game."

Ryan added, "It was incredible. They supported me and I got to contribute. You can't write that, the way that went. It was just an incredible evening, so thank you to all of them."

A PERSONAL VICTORY
Ottawa Senators

Wayne Gretzky NHL Fights Are Going Extinct Could Eventually Be Banned

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BREAKING THE ICE
TMZSports.com

Wayne Gretzky says fighting in the NHL might not be around much longer ... and tells TMZ Sports he can see a scenario where it's officially banned from the league.

"You've cleaned it out of minor hockey, junior hockey, college hockey," The Great One says. "It's not really part of our game anymore."

Of course, the issue of fighting in the sport is being brought up again after an AHL player was hospitalized after he took a haymaker to the face in an on-ice tilt earlier this week.

When we ran into Gretzky in NYC on Thursday ... he told us despite the terrifying scene, fights are still going to happen in hockey every now and then.

But, he added the league appears to be getting closer and closer to seeing the scraps become extinct.

"There's less and less fights every year," Gretzky says. "Kids grow up now and nobody fights. In the old days, they used to fight at 15, 18, 20, but now they all grow up and nobody fights."

When we asked Gretzky -- who rarely ever threw down in his 20-year NHL career -- if he could see the league inputting a rule prohibiting the knuckle chucking, he told us, "You never know."

By the way, we also asked Wayne for his thoughts on Zamboni-driver-turned-backup-goalie, David Ayres ... and The Great One had some funny comments on the amazing story!

Pro Hockey Player Hospitalized After Violent Fight ... KO'd At Center Ice

Breaking News

11:56 AM PT -- The Bears just announced Kessy has been released from the hospital after being kept overnight for observation.

"I would like to send my heartfelt thank you to Hershey Bears fans for their thoughts, prayers and support following my injury last night," Kessy said in a statement Wednesday.

"Additionally, I'd like to thank our trainers, doctors, EMTs, Bob Goodman, and Milton S. Hershey Medical Center for providing me immediate and exceptional care. I am feeling better today, and I look forward to rejoining my Hershey Bears teammates soon."

Scary moment on the ice ... a pro hockey player was knocked out cold during a fight Tuesday -- and had to be rushed to the hospital to make sure he was okay.

The scrap all went down in the American Hockey League (the NHL's developmental league) during a game between the Hershey Bears and the Charlotte Checkers in Pennsylvania.

Bears center Kale Kessy locked horns with Checkers D-man Derek Sheppard in the 2nd period -- and that's when things escalated QUICKLY.

You can see in video of the tilt ... the two dropped their sticks, their gloves and took off their helmets before trading a flurry of punches at center ice.

Both guys connected with some violent haymakers -- when, suddenly, 25-year-old Sheppard unloaded a right hand that caught 27-year-old Kessy flush in the face.

Kessy appeared to be knocked out before his body hit the ground ... and you can see immediate concern from Sheppard and the refs, who waved for medical attention.

Kessy was down for around 10 minutes ... and according to witnesses, a LOT of blood could be seen on the ice before he was ultimately stretchered off and taken to the hospital.

Hershey team officials said just minutes after the fight, Kale "lost, but regained consciousness on the ice. He is alert, and in stable condition."

Bears coach Spencer Carbery said after the game Kessy was "doing better" ... but said docs were keeping his player in the hospital overnight for further evaluation.

Kessy is considered a team enforcer for Hershey ... reportedly the fight Tuesday was his sixth of the season. For Sheppard, meanwhile, it was reportedly his fifth scrap of the year.

As for the game, Kessy's Bears ended up finishing the Checkers, 6-1, after a lengthy post-fight delay.

Originally Published -- 8:01 AM PT

Zamboni Goalie David Ayres Tryouts with Other NHL Teams? ... Not Interested!!!

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BACK TO THE ZAMBONI
TMZSports.com

Here he is ... David Ayres -- the Zamboni driver was called out of the stands to play goalie for the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes team on Saturday ... and he's a rockstar!!!

The story is amazing ... the 42-year-old was sitting in the stands at the Maple Leafs vs. Carolina Hurricanes game in Toronto when both of the 'Canes top two goalies suffered injuries and couldn't play.

So, the 'Canes called for the emergency backup (there's one in the stands at every game who could play for either team if the situation deems necessary) ... and he strapped on the pads and got in the game!

Ayres was rusty at first, letting in 2 quick goals -- but he stepped up and blocked several shots to close out the game ... helping the 'Canes beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3.

Now, the guy is turning into a superstar in front of our very eyes ... he hit up the "Today" show on Monday morning and on the way out, was stopped by fans for pics!

Ayres told TMZ Sports ... the fan reaction has been amazing -- with a bunch of his old coaches reaching out to give him props!

We asked if he would be chasing an NHL contract now that teams now he's legit -- but Ayres told us he completely happy staying as the emergency backup in Toronto.

Guessing at the very least he'll get some minor league offers in the near future -- so stay tuned on that!

As for compensation, Ayres was reportedly paid $500 for his appearance and allowed to keep his game-worn jersey.

FRAME THAT THING, BRO!

L.A. Kings Fans Massive Brawl In Stands ... Shirtless Haymakers & Popcorn Showers!!!

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KEEP IT ON THE ICE
TMZSports.com

Here's one of the craziest and most violent in-arena brawls EVER -- courtesy of some fans at Thursday night's L.A. Kings game.

The hometown squad was in a tight matchup with the Florida Panthers ... when one witness tells us he noticed a fight beginning to break out in the Staples Center lower bowl.

You can see in the video what happens next ... a scrap escalates into AN ALL-OUT BRAWL!!

The scene is insane ... there's a woman throwing a FLURRY of right hands to start -- and then things get even crazier.

A shirtless man runs into the scrum with a flying left haymaker ... and then for some reason, a fan dumps popcorn all over the action!!!

It's all followed up by some more punching, pushing and shoving ... before in-arena security is FINALLY able to break it up.

We reached out to our law enforcement sources ... and they tell us it appears no one was arrested ... and say Staples security usually handles this on their own by ejecting fans.

As for the game ... seems the brawl fired L.A. up -- 'cause the Kings won 5-4.

NHL's Jay Bouwmeester 'I'm On The Road To Recovery' Breaks Silence After Scary Collapse

Breaking News

NHL star Jay Bouwmeester is speaking publicly for the first time since he collapsed from a cardiac episode during a game last week ... saying he's now "on the road to recovery."

"My wife and daughters are forever grateful for everyone's support," Bouwmeester said Tuesday, "and we will continue to have a positive outlook for our future."

It's an amazing update from the 36-year-old ... considering his dire situation during the Blues-Ducks game on Feb. 11.

Jay passed out on the team's bench during the first period of the game -- and GM Dave Armstrong revealed doctors needed to use a defibrillator on the scene to revive him.

Bouwmeester was rushed to a Southern California hospital ... where he later had surgery to place an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) in his chest to prevent future issues.

In his first public statement since it all went down, Jay said he's recovering nicely ... and thanked everyone for their well wishes.

"I would sincerely like to thank all of the trainers from both the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks, as well as, all of the first responders, the Anaheim medical staff and the team at the UCI Medical Center for their quick actions on Feb. 11."

Jay continued, "Our family has felt the support of the entire National Hockey League family and the city of St. Louis during this time. We have all been greatly comforted by your genuine concern."

"On Sunday evening, I returned to St. Louis and I am on the road to recovery."

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