(Ed. Note: August is known to be a very quiet month in the hockey world. As we wait for September to arrive and training camps to begin, let’s learn a little history about all 30 teams. Behold, our summer A-Z(ed) series, in which we ask fans of all 30 teams to drop some knowledge on us! Add your own choices in the comments!)
Arturs Irbe holds the franchise record for most consecutive goaltending starts (40), and backstopped the Hurricanes to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2002, where he and his teammates found themselves on the wrong side of history in one of the longest games in SCF history. With the series tied against heavily-favored Detroit and Game 3 tied in regulation, Irbe survived two overtime periods and stopped 50 shots before Igor Larionov scored late in the third overtime period to give the Red Wings the win and series lead, which they never relinquished.
The lovable little Latvian was a fan favorite and well-known for his tenacious personality, unconventional goaltending style, and quirky equipment habits, including repairing his own gear and breaking in new pads by driving over them in his truck.
B. BBC Line
One of the catchiest line names in team history, the BBC line of Rod Brind'Amour, Bates Battaglia, and Erik Cole powered the Hurricanes to the Finals in 2002. They combined for 11 out of 21 goals scored during the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Montreal Canadiens, a series most remembered for the “Molson Miracle” where Battaglia and Cole, along with Sean Hill, overcame a 3-0 deficit to force overtime, paving the way for the game-winner from “Secret Weapon,” Niclas Wallin.
Brind'Amour and Cole would continue with the Canes, winning the Stanley Cup championship in 2006 and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009. Bates was traded from the Hurricanes the following season, but he ended up doing all right for himself as well, winning the Amazing Race with brother Anthony in 2013.
C. Cheaters. Never. Win.
You’ll hear this in PNC Arena every time an opposing team takes a penalty, one of the many chants from the loudest section in one of the loudest houses in the NHL. Section 328 has been bringing the noise and the snark since the building opened in 1999.
More recently, their podcasts are a must-listen for hockey fans, and they (along with Canes Country and the newly-minted Canes and Coffee which will feature a digital museum of Hurricanes history) are essential alternative media sources for Canes-related news, analysis and discussion.
[Above: Mike Flanagan of Section 328 and Bob Wage of Canes Country participate in the inaugural Canes Insider Panel with Youth and Amateur Hockey Director Shane Willis and Web Producer Michael Smith, Hurricanes Summerfest, July 11, 2015.]
D. Dancing Granny
Big Mike and the Storm Squad, Katherine Fritsch (and her pink go-go boots), Chopper Harrison, and of course everyone’s favorite ice hog, Stormy, are a few of the notable personalities that have added spice to the in-game experience at PNC Arena over the years.
But a few enduring die-hard fans (aka ‘Caniacs’) have managed to achieve their own celebrity status as well. No Caniac is more beloved than Dancing Granny (Joyce Johnston in real life), and her joy for the Hurricanes graced the video board for years as she shook and shimmied during games. After she passed away in 2013, the Hurricanes honored her with a video memorial and forever retired her song, 'Apple Bottom Jeans', from the play list.
E. Eye of the Hurricane
Before he waxed philosophical on Leafs Lunch for TSN Radio, Jeff O'Neill was a three-time 30-goal scorer for the Hurricanes and tallied 38 game-winning goals in his nine seasons with the franchise. During the first period of Game 3 of the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals against Toronto, he took a puck to his right eye, played the rest of the game with one eye swollen shut, and scored the overtime game-winning goal, earning his “eye of the Hurricane” nickname and cementing his spot forever in team history. No one rocks a fur coat quite like Jeff O'Neill does.
F. [Ronnie] Franchise
Drafted by Hartford in 1981, Ron Francis set nearly every offensive record in Whalers history and served as team captain for six years. Traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991, he was instrumental in their back-to-back Stanley Cup championships and earned a Selke trophy in 1995.
[Above: Rod Brind’Amour and Ron Francis “pick sides” to open the 2011 NHL All-Star game on January 30, 2011.]
Francis earned his “Franchise” moniker when he committed himself to the success of hockey in North Carolina by becoming the first high-profile free agent to sign with the Hurricanes in 1998. The first retired number to hang in the rafters of PNC Arena, his leadership and Hall of Fame resume while playing in Raleigh are already legendary (fifth all-time in points, third all-time in games played, and second all-time in assists behind only Wayne Gretzky, to name a few), but the greatest hockey contribution of Ron Francis may be yet to come.
After serving under the front office tutelage of former general manager Jim Rutherford for seven years, Francis declared “I am my own man” when he took over the GM role a year ago, and with a steady, calculated approach has begun a (mostly) quiet but foundation-up reconstruction of an organization that hasn't reached the playoffs in six years.
Glen Wesley may be one of the most unassuming players to ever have his jersey retired: steady, not flashy, inconspicuous, always in the right place at the right time and willing to sacrifice to make the smart hockey play.
Second only to Ron Francis in games played for the Hurricanes franchise (913), he was the target of general manager Jim Rutherford’s first blockbuster trade, sending three first-round draft picks to the Boston Bruins to bring Wesley to the Whalers in 1994. “Big Red” waited 19 seasons to lift the Stanley Cup, and it was only fitting that Rod Brind'Amour handed it to him first.
Wesley chose to celebrate his day with the Cup by sharing it with Wounded Warriors at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC to thank them for their military service. Now director of defenseman development, his son Josh is the first player trained in North Carolina to be selected in the NHL draft.
Carolina Hurricanes history begins by remembering the Whale, the organization that brought hockey fans Brass Bonanza, Cooperalls, and one of the most iconic sports logos of all time. An official NHL team since the WHA merger in 1979, greats such as Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Mike Liut, and Paul Coffey once called the Hartford Civic Center home (side note, Brendan Shanahan also played for the Whalers but to my knowledge he never called it home). The team advanced to the playoffs eight times with seven straight appearances from 1985-86 to 1991-92.
The Whalers were acquired in 1994 by an ownership group led by Peter Karmanos along with Thomas Thewes and Jim Rutherford, who became the team’s general manager. Despite Karmanos' pledge that the team would remain in Hartford for at least four years, attendance and corporate sponsorship struggles, battles with the state for a new arena, and other assorted political issues led ownership to the decision to relocate the franchise to Raleigh. The Whalers played their final game on April 13, 1997. Captain Kevin Dineen scored the final goal in a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
I. In Rod We Trust
Two-time Selke winner, master of cheating on face-offs, and purveyor of the hairy eyeball, Rod The Bod Brind'Amour exudes intensity and discipline with every aspect of his hockey life, whether it be his legendary fitness regimen, work ethic, or steely leadership. Unabashedly revered in Raleigh, this man commands so much respect that fourteen years after being traded, FLYERS fans gave him an ovation at the 2014 draft (they’ll induct him into their Hall of Fame later this year).
Named captain at the beginning of the 2005-06 season, and willing the franchise to its first championship with 12 playoff goals (a franchise record) including 4 game-winners, no moment in Hurricanes history revealed so much raw emotion as when Brind'Amour grabbed the Stanley Cup out of Gary Bettman's clasp (“I’m almost done”), stomped, let out a primal scream, and squat-pressed it across the ice for his victory lap.
Rod retired from the Hurricanes in 2010, his jersey followed suit in 2011, and today he is revered by a new generation of players as an assistant coach.
J. Johnny Sideburns
Hey Hey Whaddya Say? None better in broadcasting today than veteran play-by-play television announcer John Forslund, who calls Hurricanes games with a purpose alongside color analyst Tripp Tracy. Forslund started his career in Hartford and celebrated 20 years with the Hurricanes franchise last season. Renowned for his perfectly coiffed pompadour and clever catch-phrases, he is a consummate professional, tirelessly preparing so that he provides the perfect amount of seasoning to ignite and maintain the passion of the game without rising above it. That’s hockey, baby!
Twenty Years of John Forslund - From Hartford:
K. [Chuckandtheletter] K
“9,393 days of frustration, and on the 9,394th day of NHL existence, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Whalers organization ‘til 1997, have won the Stanley Cup!” - Chuck Kaiton, June 19, 2006
With his attention to every detail, encyclopedic knowledge of the history of the sport, and unique ability to paint an audio picture, Chuck Kaiton flies solo as the radio voice of the Hurricanes franchise. He began his Hartford Whalers career by calling their first game in 1979, and has only missed one game in franchise history (to attend to his father’s funeral and in his place for that one game was John Forslund, who does a pretty solid impersonation of his colleague). Kaiton logged his 3,000th professional hockey broadcast in 2013, and received the Foster Hewitt Award for broadcast excellence from the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004.
L. Location. Location. Location.
[Above: Player introductions, 2011 NHL All-Star Game, January 30, 2011.]
The Hurricanes faced early adversity when they were forced to play their first two seasons 90 minutes away at the Greensboro Coliseum while a new arena was being built in Raleigh. Attracting average crowds of less than 10,000 (though a badge of honor for those who survived), the experience was disastrous and drew the mockery of hockey media and fans until the Entertainment and Sports Arena opened in Raleigh in 1999.
The ESA became the RBC Center and eventually PNC Arena, and today it is home to both the Hurricanes and NC State Wolfpack basketball. It hosted the NHL draft in 2004 (where, to the delights of the crowd, the hosting team traded up from eighth to fourth in the first round to select Andrew Ladd) and the All-Star Game in 2011, and became the site of the first major professional sports championship in North Carolina when the Stanley Cup was awarded to the Hurricanes.
M. Mo Must Go
The second-youngest coach in NHL history (28) when he stepped behind the Whalers bench in 1995, Paul Maurice's two tours of duty as Hurricanes head coach achieved some great successes. He led the team to the Cup finals in 2002, then to the Eastern Conference Final in 2009 after replacing Peter Laviolette mid-season.
He gave a sharp interview, knowledgeable and witty, and had solid rapport with his players. But it was his innate ability to self-level back to a .500 record that drove fans crazy. Twice. A last place finish in 2002-03 and eight wins in 30 games to start 2003-04 led to his first dismissal, and a losing record in 2009-10 followed by losing a playoff spot on the last game of the 2010-11 season led to Mo Must Go Version 2.0.
N. [Cam Ward Says] No
Drafted 25th overall by the Hurricanes in 2002, Cam Ward has said 'No' 13,416 times in 512 games, with 246 wins and 22 shutouts, all franchise bests (by miles).
After making his first NHL start in a shootout win against Sidney Crosby, Ziggy Palffy, and Mario Lemieux on October 7, 2005, he spent his rookie season backing up Martin Gerber until Gerber took ill in the opening round of the 2006 playoffs and forced Ward into primetime, two games down against the Montreal Canadiens. The Canes came back to clinch that series 4-2, and Ward made save after highlight reel save on his way to collecting a Conn Smythe trophy as the Stanley Cup playoffs MVP.
Twice he has bested his idol, Martin Brodeur, in head-to-head playoff series wins in 2006 and 2009. And while he's not going to waste his time with Tuukka Rask, during the 2004-05 lockout Wardo was willing to dust 'em up against future teammate Michael Leighton.
O. “Oh Say Can JUSSI” (2009 Playoffs)
After a gut-wrenching loss dropped them out of the playoffs on the last day of the 2007-08 season, the Canes scrapped their way into the postseason in 2009, where they were swept in the Eastern Conference Final by the eventual champion Penguins. But the journey to get to that final round was spectacular (including late night airport runs to greet the team plane after all the road games).
Opening against the Devils, Tim Gleason scored the Game 2 overtime winner with a stick “blessed” by Niclas Wallin, and Jussi Jokinen threw a “Bump-a-Marty Party” with .2 seconds left in regulation in Game 4. In Game 7, the Devils were 1:20 away from advancing (thanks to a badly called Chad LaRose no-goal) when Jokinen struck again, tying the game off a perfectly-placed pass from Joni Pitkanen, and to complete the “Shock at the Rock”, Eric Staal launched the series winner past Martin Brodeur with 31 seconds left.
Swept by the Bruins during the regular season, the Canes unexpectedly took a 3-1 series lead in Round 2, thanks to two more game-winners by Jokinen, who by this time heard fans chant his name during the national anthem. But the Bruins came back to tie the series, and headed back to hostile Boston Garden for Game 7 one might think the Canes had run out of storylines by this point. It got even better.
Bad blood had started to rise from Game 5 when Scott Walker sucker-punched former Hurricane Aaron Ward and received a fine but no suspension. With Game 7 tied in regulation, Tim Thomas focus on a shot from Ray Whitney, and Walker snuck in and tipped the rebound for the overtime victory. Fans would later learn that Walker was dealing with a difficult personal situation at the time, and doesn't even remember playing in that Game 7 in one of the best performances of his career.
P. Ponytailed Pete
Peter Karmanos, Jr., the once-ponytailed maverick who founded a multi-billion dollar software and IT services company, is a man known for being both benevolent and pugnacious. His Compuware youth hockey program in Detroit has produced 235 Division I scholarship athletes and 14 NHL first-round picks, and his OHL Plymouth Whalers developed 90 players that have been drafted into the NHL along with many managers and coaches.
Karmanos purchased the Hartford Whalers in 1994 as a majority owner and took a personal and financial risk when he relocated the team to a sunny climate known for college basketball rivalries instead of hockey.
While fans in Hartford are understandably bitter, Karmanos has a few dissenters in Detroit as well, where he turf-battled Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch for years over amateur hockey, then created ripples across the league when he presented a $38-million offer sheet to unsigned restricted free agent Sergei Fedorov in 1998. While Canes fans remain ever grateful he brought hockey to our corner of the world, most prefer when he works behind the scenes and not in front of a microphone, where he tends to become a bit irascible.
In November, Karmanos will be honored for his 40-plus years spent building the sport when he is deservedly inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. It seems only fitting that Sergei Fedorov will be enshrined along with him.
Q. Queen City
In 2010 Michael Kahn, owner of the ECHL Charlotte Checkers, purchased the Albany River Rats, the Hurricanes AHL affiliate. The River Rats relocated to the Queen City of Charlotte, NC, and the ECHL affiliation was relinquished to give the Checkers name to the AHL club.
The short drive down I-85 creates a convenient alignment between the two organizations (Kahn is now also a minority owner in the Hurricanes) and visibility for the Canes prospects. The Checkers have made the playoffs twice in their five seasons, reaching the third round in 2010-11. They will move into a new/old arena for 2015-16 with new head coach Mark Morris behind the bench. And thanks to twitter-savvy Zach Boychuk, fans always have the latest breaking news about the next call-up to Raleigh.
Traded from the Blackhawks in exchange for Andrew Ladd on February 26, 2008, Tuomo Ruutu bulldozed his way into the hearts of fans his first day on the Hurricanes payroll. Arriving at the arena with minutes to spare for a game that night against the New Jersey Devils, Ruutu took the ice and proceeded to hit everything in sight wearing a white jersey. Fans immediately began Ruuing, a practice that never stopped during his six seasons with Carolina, where he holds the franchise record for hits. His next-day interview sporting 40 stitches from a stick to the face sealed his fate as a fan favorite.
As affable off-ice as he was a gladiator on the ice, Ruutu (along with Finnish country mates Jussi Jokinen and Joni Pitkanen) proudly hosted teammates and 400 (yes, four hundred) traveling fans for the road trip of a lifetime to his home country when the Hurricanes opened the 2010-11 season in Helsinki for the Compuware Premiere series against the Minnesota Wild. Hyvä Suomi.
S. Sod Farmers (alternate title “It’s Staal Good”)
In addition to running a successful sod farm in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Henry and Linda Staal are pretty good at raising hockey players. All four of their sons have made it to the NHL, and 75% of their hockey harvest has worn the sightless eye. Jordan Staal, acquired at the 2012 draft from the Penguins (on his wedding day, no less), is expected to play a critical role for many years to come. Youngest brother Jared was in the system for five seasons, mostly with the Checkers except for a brief call-up to face brother Marc's New York Rangers.
But few players have the ability to outright dominate a game the way captain Eric Staal can. His Hurricanes legacy is still being written, and at 30, he is already one of the most impactful players in franchise history.
Atop the franchise leader board in several categories (playoff goals and points, hat tricks, shorthanded goals), he is second only to Ron Francis in many others, and is the only Hurricanes player since relocation to hit 100 points in a single season. He is one of only 26 players in NHL history to achieve the elite Triple Gold Club (Stanley Cup, World Championship Gold, Olympic Gold).
He has been selected to the NHL All-Star Game four times and awarded the MVP in 2008, and showed the hockey world what a great ambassador he is for the NHL and the Hurricanes when he hosted the league's best and served as a captain during the 2011 All-Star Game in Raleigh.
[Above: Team Staal captain Eric Staal selects best player available Cam Ward with the first overall pick in the inaugural All-Star Game Fantasy Draft, January 29, 2011.]
[Above: Hurricanes players Jussi Jokinen, Joni Pitkanen, and Tuomo Ruutu hold a photo shoot with the East Gate tailgaters in the RBC Center parking lot for Finnish sports magazine Veikkaaja, September 14, 2009.]
Blessed with a warm climate, mild winters, and a spacious parking campus, tailgating is a way of life at PNC Arena and is recognized as such throughout the league.
The event doesn't matter - games, concerts, training camp, select-a-seat, All-Star games, even Stanley Cup parades. 9:00 am is not too early to see tents, tables, portable bars, and grills being set up. Long-timers have Facebook groups devoted to sharing recipes and game day logistics. Menus can be as simple as a box from the Bojangles drive-through or an elaborate feast with smoked Boston butt (but don’t tell Stormy), seafood, chili cook-offs, even reindeer. Mix in a little music and some badminton or corn hole and the party is ready to roll.
Canes fans recall where they were on May 3, 1999 when they heard the news that Steve Chiasson had been killed in an automobile accident. The day before, the team had been eliminated by the Boston Bruins in the opening round of the playoffs, and after attending a team party at the home of Gary Roberts, and despite protests from his teammates, Chiasson made a fateful decision to drive home after having too much to drink. A veteran of 13 seasons in the NHL and a member of the Hurricanes/Whalers since 1997, he left behind a wife and three young children.
Sons Michael and Ryan attended the Hurricanes prospect development camp in 2014 (Michael also attended in 2013). The team continues to honor his memory by presenting an annual Steve Chiasson Award to the team-voted MVP, and while not retired, the number 3 has not been assigned to another player since his death.
V. Vasicek, Josef
Without Josef Vasicek, there might not be a Molson Miracle or Eastern Conference Championship in 2002. Kevin Weekes made “the save” against John Madden in overtime of Game 5 of the Hurricanes first round series with the Devils in 2002, but it was the man known as the Czech Condor who swooped in on Martin Brodeur to score the game-winning goal, the turning point in that series. In the Eastern Conference Finals, Vasicek assisted on the overtime game-winner from Martin Gelinas that sent the Canes to their first Stanley Cup Finals.
A cheerful, humble, easygoing man, Vasicek played six seasons for the Hurricanes and led the team in scoring in 2003-04. He was only 30 years old when he was tragically killed along with his KHL Yaroslavl Lokomotiv teammates when the team plane crashed on September 7, 2011. Rest in peace, big Joe.
Journeyman Ray Whitney played 22 seasons in the NHL for eight different teams and lifted the Stanley Cup wearing a Hurricanes jersey.
Acquired in free agency after the 2004-05 lockout, “The Wizard” spent five seasons with the Hurricanes, where he served as an alternate captain, scored 119 goals and 334 points (including a career high 83 points in 2006-07), dangled his way past even the best defensemen, and scored the quickest natural hat trick in team history. But perhaps he gained the most notoriety by photobombing every pregame interview, and could always be counted on to know just what to say to fit the occasion, whether it was an answer to an “Ask the Canes” segment, or expressing his joy in winning the Stanley Cup.
X. [Roman Numeral 10]
Much has already been written here about Carolina’s Stanley Cup Championship season, which will mark its tenth anniversary in 2015-16 with great fanfare.
There are countless other moments worth remembering along the way: Erik Cole's return from a broken neck late in the Finals, Justin Williams earning his 'Mr. Game 7' nickname, Relentless wine bottles and wristbands to support head coach Peter Laviolette's young neighbor, Julia Rowe, and her battle with leukemia, Eric Staal's game-tying goal against the Devils with 3 seconds left after many fans had already left the building, Kevyn Adams’ broken wrist, sending hordes of Sabres fans home disappointed (with the champagne chilling), Mike Commodore's bathrobe, the stolen coin, ‘The Rising’, Doug Weight lifting the Cup with one shoulder.
But as a fan, perhaps the most memorable personal experience came from the swell of support from 18,978 people who remained standing in unison from puck drop until the final horn sounded on June 19, 2006. It may have been the X-factor the team needed to prevail that magical evening. Whatever It Takes.
Enough reminiscing. When a team hasn't made the playoffs in six years it's time to face the future. Ron Francis began his quiet reconstruction last year with a new front office, new scouts, and new coaching staff led by Bill Peters. The Hurricanes only have six players over the age of thirty, none with more than two years of contract term remaining.
There are only three Canes on the current roster whose contracts extend past 2017. One is Jordan Staal, 26, with a Stanley Cup, World Championship gold, and Calder and Selke nominations on his resume. Another is Jeff Skinner, at 18 the youngest ever to play in an NHL All-Star game and now at 23 with two 30-goal seasons in the books along with a Calder trophy. The other is Justin Faulk, also 23 and with an NCAA national championship and Winter Olympics appearance for Team USA. Faulk already holds the team’s best single-season record for points (49) by a defenceman.
Swedish forward tandem Elias Lindholm (completed his second NHL season) and Victor Rask (completed his first) combined for 28 goals and 72 points last season.
Fans were universally ecstatic when the Hurricanes landed Noah Hanifin with the fifth overall pick in this summer's draft. Hanifin will join two other top defensive prospects, Haydn Fleury and Roland McKeown, in the battle for a spot on the blue line along with 2011 first-rounder Ryan Murphy. Undrafted forward Sergey Tolchinsky will set out to prove that his highlight reel goals in the Canes prospect development camp aren't a fluke.
The Hurricanes might not yet be playoff-ready, but the infusion of youth should make for exciting hockey in the arena. Oh, and did I mention they have two first round picks in 2016?
Z. Zarley Zalapski
One of the greatest hockey names ever, Zarley Zalapski was traded from Pittsburgh, along with John Cullen and Jeff Parker, to the Hartford Whalers on March 4, 1991, in exchange for Ron Francis, Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings. The trade is considered one of the most significant in the history of both teams, but for polar opposite reasons. Francis and Samuelsson went on to help the Penguins win back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. Zalapski and Cullen had solid performances their first two seasons, helping Hartford qualify for the playoffs, but the Whalers lost in the first round both seasons and never qualified again.
Meet the author: Jamie Kellner is a North Carolina native who has been following the Hurricanes since she moved to Raleigh ten years ago. She’s known for taking a picture or two at a hockey game, which earning her the title of “Phoblographer” at Canes Country. She can also be found on SmugMug and Twitter at @jbkellner.