Rest as a weapon: Why the Hurricanes have abandoned one of hockey’s oldest traditions

It’s a long mid-day bus ride from Madison Square (the garden, not The Garden) through the Lincoln Tunnel to Newark, a place where the Carolina Hurricanes have much fonder postseason memories than they do at Madison Square Garden.

That’s a choice, to be sure, to haul the entire operation across the Hudson on Monday after a 4-3 Game 1 loss to the New York Rangers, to the closest available and suitable ice for an off-day practice — the New Jersey Devils’ practice rink within the Prudential Center — with MSG occupied by the New York Knicks that day and night.

It’s a choice Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour made willingly. Gladly, even. The Hurricanes wanted to get one on-ice session in before Tuesday’s Game 2. These days, Brind’Amour would rather cross state lines if that’s what it takes than skate on the morning of a game

There is, at least, a good reason behind the reverse commute. The Hurricanes have upended standard operating procedure in the NHL in an attempt to weaponize rest, all but abandoning one of hockey’s oldest traditions in the process.

So off to Jersey the Hurricanes went, going from Shock at the Rock in 2009 to Schlep to the Rock in 2024.

“It’s what the players want,” Brind’Amour said. “So you just go off of what they feel, as long as the results are there. If you felt like we’re sluggish on the starts because we didn’t have a morning skate, then you’d have to morning skate. But it was the opposite when we went through it all. So it was like, OK, there’s no reason to do this. If we’re going to play like that, then there’s no reason to morning skate.”

Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Anderson (31) talks with goaltending coach Paul Schonfelder during their practice on Thursday, May 2, 2024 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.
Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Anderson (31) talks with goaltending coach Paul Schonfelder during their practice on Thursday, May 2, 2024 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.

In the old days, the morning skate was opaquely designed to let players sweat out whatever indiscretions in which they may have indulged the evening previous. Those days, of course, are over — for the most part in the regular season, at least, and entirely in the postseason. Still, for generations of players, it has been part of the gameday routine. Thirty minutes or so of light practice — 10:30 for the home team, 11:30 for the visitors — to get the blood moving and the mind right before a game.

As a player, Brind’Amour swore by it, sometimes sandwiching the time on skates with time in the weight room before or after. So many players of that era, and eras before, needed to scratch that itch. But times have changed, and as a coach, especially on the road, Brind’Amour has come to look at it as unnecessary effort expended.

Over his six years in charge, the Hurricanes have skated less and less on game days during the playoffs, preferring to skate between games on the road — it’s nice to have something to do on the off days — and hold meetings at the team hotel instead of a morning skate. (At home, they often do the reverse.) That’s especially true in places like Long Island, where the hotel and the arena are barely in the same area code.

Increasingly, they have taken that approach in the regular season as well, with the same guiding principle: If there’s a finite amount of energy in the human body, why leave any of it on the ice between games?

That even extended to the pursuit of the Rangers for the division title, to an extent. The Hurricanes may still have been able to get home-ice advantage, but at what cost in the long term? They’ll find out … now.

“The way we actually approach the whole year was a little different than in past years,” Brind’Amour said. “We’ll see if it pays off. … Part of the strategy always has been, we play as hard as we can every night. There’s a certain level of how hard you push, even though you want to play as hard as you can, you’ve got to get to the finish line and it maybe wasn’t so important to maybe be the first guy at the finish line.

“We wanted to be and we pushed to be, but it’s how we talked about it, how we focused on it. During that stretch, did we maybe look at the bigger picture? I think maybe we changed a little bit in that regard.”

It all goes hand in hand. So if the Hurricanes would rather join the bridge-and-tunnel crowd on Monday than walk the 10 blocks through midtown on Tuesday, there’s at least method behind the madness.

Never miss a Luke DeCock column. Sign up at to have them delivered directly to your email inbox as soon as they post.

Luke DeCock’s Latest: Never miss a column on the Canes, ACC or other Triangle sports