Twenty-four years ago, Hartford Whalers . franchise Pack their bags and ship to an untested hockey market in Raleigh, North Carolina to become the Hurricanes. Since then, the Hurricanes and the city of Raleigh have proven that hockey can not only work in the Old North State, but it can thrive in the right circumstances.
Many great NHL players have worn the Hurricanes red and black over the years, just as many have been instrumental in creating a culture of success and an identity of hard work and dedication. When discussing who are/are the most important players to the Hurricanes franchise, not only the top scorers or the most skilled players will be taken into consideration, but also those the person who has the most influence on the culture and identity of the team.
A personal favorite of mine, Arturs Irbe was a fan favorite everywhere he went during his NHL career. From his quirky goalkeeper mask, to his ability to give his team a chance to win most nights, it’s easy to see why Irbe is such a popular figure in professional hockey. . The Latvian native joined the Hurricanes in 1998 after their first season in Raleigh, and with ‘Canes, Irbe had the best years of his career.
While his stellar performance with the San Jose Sharks in 1994 that helped turn them upside down the Detroit Red Wings throne was a remarkable moment in his career, he stole the show when he joined the Raleigh stage in 1998. First, he started work as a 25-year-old Trevor Kidd, and then helped the storm reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2002, just five years after they moved to Raleigh.
Irbe never saw the NHL’s lasting success, but he helped put the Hurricanes on the relevant map very soon after they moved from Hartford, and for that, the city is forever grateful to the man. called “The Wall”.
An original Hurricanes pick in 1998, Erik Cole was both incredibly skilled and dedicated to winning. Although he has a top quality shot and incredible skating ability, he is never afraid to get into corners and fight or stand in front of or near the net to shoot from long distances and cause havoc. counter the opponent’s net.
Cole spent his best years with the ‘Canes, playing nine of his first 10 seasons in the NHL in Raleigh and enjoying the most success there in the process. A rookie in the 2001-02 season, Cole played all 82 games and helped Carolina reach the Stanley Cup Finals. Four years later, Cole had a fantastic season helping the ‘Canes win the Southeast Asian Championship, and eventually the Stanley Cup, despite Cole missing most of the playoffs due to injury.
After spending the last nine parts of his career with three other NHL clubs, Cole signed a one-day contract with the Hurricanes last September to retire as ‘Cane. Cole now serves as a club ambassador.
Wherever Ron Francis went, victory followed him, as he played playoff hockey in 17 of his 22 NHL seasons and was part of three Stanley Cup Finals, winning two championships with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not only is Francis a leader on and off the ice, he’s also one of the best hockey players to ever make them score, scoring 1,798 points in 1,731 regular NHL season games.
While Francis didn’t join the Hurricanes until the age of 35, he left an indelible mark on the franchise. His veteran intellect and high skill level were instrumental in helping the Hurricanes franchise prove their worth in North Carolina. He helped the team reach the post-season in three of his first four seasons with them, during which they reached the Finals in 2002. Even during his relatively short stint with them. ‘Canes as a player, Francis remains essential to developing a winning culture in Raleigh.
Following his retirement, Francis took a role in the Raleigh Youth Hockey Foundation in their efforts to help develop young hockey players in the area and, more recently, as an assistant coach. responsibility of ‘Canes, president of hockey operations, and as general manager. You can say what you want about the quality of your tenure as chief of staff, but Ron Francis has dedicated his heart, soul, and body to the Hurricanes organization, and that will go. into history.
As a massive man with incredible abilities, Staal’s potential seemed limitless when he joined the NHL. He had an average rookie campaign, but after his stint with the AHL during the 2004-05 run, Staal returned as a haunted man. He led the ‘Canes’ in scoring for the 2005-06 season with 100 points, then 28 points in 25 playoffs en route to the first Stanley Cup in the Hurricanes’ franchise history.
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Not only did Staal excel in the playoffs while running the Cup, he scored one of the most iconic goals in Hurricanes history when he netted against Martin Brodeur with 32 seconds left in game 7 of the game. 2009 East Conference quarterfinals, giving the Hurricanes their fourth goal. A -3 lead and, ultimately, sinking the New Jersey Devils on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Staal was not only a leader, commanding the team for over six years, but he was also a clutch performer and the face of the franchise until his departure in 2016.
An obvious choice here, Cam Ward will live as the greatest goalkeeper in franchise history for a long time.
Once picked in the first round of the Hurricanes in 2002, Ward sought to bolster the team’s saves when he joined the league in 2005, but that was not clear at first. Ward struggled as a substitute behind Martin Gerber, but the problems were largely masked by a powerful ‘Canes’ attack.
In the playoffs, however, when they fell 0-2 to the Montreal Canadaiens in their opening series, head coach Peter Laviolette turned to Ward, and the rest is history. Carolina won the Stanley Cup, and Cam Ward won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, quelling any doubts that he was the right man for the job.
Ward was the Hurricanes’ goalkeeper for more than a decade, and while the team only made it to the knockouts during that time, Ward often gave his team a chance to win no matter the circumstances. He became an all-star in 2011 when the All-Star Game came to Raleigh, and he played a total of 668 NHL games in a Hurricanes sweater. In the summer of 2018, when his departure through free agency, he is officially passing the torch to the next generation of ‘Canes’ goalkeepers.
And, in August 2019, he signed a one-day contract with the Hurricanes so he can retire as a Sugarcane. It was really the only way for him to end his NHL career.
As if there were any doubts.
Brind’Amour wasn’t a draft pick for the Hurricanes, but he did make the Hurricanes organization his tribe. Acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers in 2000, Brind’Amour quickly became a fan-favorite legend and franchise with stellar performances on the ice, as well as unparalleled leadership by me. This is a man who can not only dominate the scoreboard, but can also rally his army and rush into battle against those he leads.
Every winning team needs one Rod Brind’Amour. He is a player who is the perfect centerpiece of the franchise and the perfect captain to lead a great team. Brind’Amour was crucial to the Hurricanes’ appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals, their championship win in 2006, and he helped usher in a new era of Hurricanes hockey, played to age. 39. He even recovered from an ACL tear at the age of 37 – old in 2008, and returned to play 80 games the following season. He was simply as stiff as a nail.
Just about a year after his retirement, Brind’Amour was brought in as assistant coach for Carolina, where he remained in that position until he took over as head coach in May 2018. Even after his competitive years have ended, Brind’Amour continues to be involved in the evolution and identity of the Hurricanes organization, and he looks set to make an even greater impact as head coach, led the team to the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals and to a strong start to the 2019-20 season. Brind’Amour carries the same work ethic and drives into the dressing room nightly this season and hopes that for ‘Canes fans, that will pay dividends for years to come.
* All stats from HockeyDB.com – first published July 2018
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