Cam Ward Hurricanes Hall of Fame induction a fitting tribute

Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour, left, congratulates former Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward on Ward’s induction into the Hurricanes Hall of Fame prior to an NHL hockey game against the Montreal Canadiens in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023.

Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour, left, congratulates former Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward on Ward’s induction into the Hurricanes Hall of Fame prior to an NHL hockey game against the Montreal Canadiens in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023.

Even on this night of celebration, standing literally in the spotlight, Cam Ward took a quick moment to acknowledge his tenure with the Carolina Hurricanes wasn’t all sunshine and puppies and flowers.

The great thing about Thursday night, and Ward’s induction into the Hurricanes’ nascent Hall of Fame, is that all of that is — if not forgotten — truly immaterial now. This honor helps buff the rough edges off his legacy just as certainly as time has, brings everything full circle, puts a bow on his career.

With each passing year, we’re left with more of the fond memories, and there’s plenty of those.

“The reality is, we all know there’s been some great moments and some not-so-great moments,” Ward said. “One thing stayed clear throughout, and that was my love for this organization, this city, this fan base. It is why my family and I call this place home. It is home.”

Many of the same people who wildly applauded those lines once groused about Ward’s inability to get some pretty good Hurricanes teams over the line into the postseason, even booed him from time to time. Which is fine. It’s what fans do. There was more than enough reason, for too many years, to be frustrated.

Ward was an easy scapegoat on a team that was tens of million dollars below the cap and a front office that kept serving stew meat and calling it filet mignon. Some untimely injuries didn’t help, and there were times when his performance wasn’t good enough, but he also kept some garishly awful teams vaguely respectable, never mind the parade of rank incompetence in net that followed his departure.

But that’s exactly the kind of thing that blurs with distance, and evenings like this only hasten that process, bringing the good times into focus. And it’s hard to imagine better times than his rookie year, when he went from wide-eyed backup to Conn Smythe Trophy winner.

The Montreal Canadiens, as a sign of respect, remained on their bench for the entire ceremony. That was fitting, and not only because every NHL team has had to sit through a zillion of these ceremonies in Montreal: If it weren’t for Ward’s intervention that spring, they might have 25 Stanley Cups instead of 24.

Under slightly different circumstances, Ward might have spent his entire career with the Hurricanes, and when they made the playoffs he was spectacular — and not only in 2006. Even if he’d been fully healthy, the Hurricanes probably weren’t beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, but at 100 percent he would have at least given them a chance. He made one final appearance at PNC Arena in the fall of 2018, with the Chicago Blackhawks, after 352 in a home sweater.

This was also about the Hurricanes as much as Ward, the fact that they’ve had enough players with records of achievement worth recognizing to have a Hall of Fame worthy of the name. Ward was a natural first inductee, perhaps not quite worthy of joining the three players whose jerseys are retired — Rod Brind’Amour, Ron Francis and Glen Wesley; one in the Hockey Hall of Fame, a second who should be and a third not far out of it — but certainly having earned this.

“When you think of the history of the Hurricanes, you can’t not think of Cam Ward,” Brind’Amour said.

There are several people in line behind Ward, from builders like Jim Rutherford and Peter Karmanos, to coaches like Paul Maurice and Peter Laviolette and broadcasters like Chuck Kaiton and John Forslund, to a long list of players that starts with Eric Staal and extends to Jeff O’Neill and Erik Cole and Ray Whitney and Arturs Irbe and Bret Hedican and Sami Kapanen, and on and on and on. (Full disclosure: I am a member of the Hurricanes’ Hall of Fame selection committee.)

It’ll be at least a decade before the pool gets thin, and by then players like Jaccob Slavin and Sebastian Aho may be a little grayer and a little thicker around the middle and ready to receive this kind of honor. That’s all a long way away, many years from now.

It’s been five years since Ward last played for the Hurricanes, 17 since his greatest triumph, and the more time that passes the easier it is to discard the not-so-great and remember and honor the great — and there was more than enough of that.

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

Related stories from Charlotte Observer

Sports columnist Luke DeCock joined The News & Observer in 2000 and has covered six Final Fours, the Summer Olympics, the Super Bowl and the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup. He is the current president of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, was the 2020 winner of the National Headliner Award as the country’s top sports columnist and has twice been named North Carolina Sportswriter of the Year.

Source link

Leave a Comment