'Time to take the next step'

After a Hall of Fame-worthy career, the former team captain says he feels 'at peace' moving into retirement.

Staff writerJuly 1, 2010 

  • Rod Brind'Amour became a member of the Carolina Hurricanes after a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 23, 2000. The Canes also received goaltender Jean-Marc Pelletier and a second-round draft pick (later traded to the Colorado Avalanche) in exchange for Keith Primeau and a 2000 fifth-round pick (later traded to the New York Islanders).

For many Carolina Hurricanes fans, the lasting image of Rod Brind'Amour will be of him lifting the Stanley Cup in 2006, victorious, his face revealing hard-won satisfaction and sheer ecstasy.

For Brind'Amour, who announced his retirement from the NHL on Wednesday, it was the defining moment of a 20-year career. He didn't wait for commissioner Gary Bettman to hand him the Cup after the Canes finished off the Edmonton Oilers in the finals. He all but snatched it away, like a man badly thirsting for it, holding the Cup high as the RBC Center rumbled.

Brind'Amour now has no more games to play, no more Cups to seek. After a few agonizing weeks to mull over his future, it was agreed the former team captain will receive a $2 million settlement from the Hurricanes on the final year of his contract and will accept a still-to-be-determined managementposition in the organization.

"I feel at peace," Brind'Amour said, shedding nary a tear at a news conference at the RBC Center. "All good things come to an end, I guess. From a career standpoint, there is nothing more to do."

Brind'Amour will be 40 in August. This past season, he gave up the captaincy to Eric Staal and often was relegated to meager minutes totals in games, being used as the team's fourth-line center.

But Brind'Amour believed he could still play, still contribute. No one worked harder in conditioning off the ice. Few played with more wide-eyed intensity on it. Why not one more year to fulfill his contract, his commitment?

"In talking to Rod, I could tell he was torn about the decision," Hurricanes forward Ray Whitney said Wednesday. "It's not the way he wanted to go out, not the way he wanted his career to end.

"It's always sad to see a great career end and a player retire, especially him. But maybe it's time to take the next step."

Jim Rutherford, the Hurricanes' president and general manager, is moving the team in a different direction. The Canes will be younger next season, with a much lower payroll. The decision was made that Brind'Amour did not fit into the team's plans.

Brind'Amour said that two weeks ago, he talked with Rutherford. Much was discussed, he said, and he was asked if he could again accept a lesser role next season.

"I told him I didn't have a problem with it," Brind'Amour said. "I didn't like the way this season went and wanted a chance to kind to redeem myself, in my mind anyway. I really thought it bought me a little more time."

On Tuesday night, Brind'Amour said Rutherford called to say the team wanted to move ahead without him in the lineup. On Wednesday morning, Brind'Amour said, the two talked about him staying with the organization and the final decision was reached.

"Rod said 'I feel better about this,' and I said 'I feel better about it,' and it brought closure," Rutherford said.

Brind'Amour, who was to draw a $3 million salary next season, retired. The team will pay him $1 million each of the next two seasons and an unspecified salary for his new job.

"Hopefully I'll grow into whatever it is," Brind'Amour said of the position.

Rutherford praised Brind'Amour for his leadership, for his play, for helping the Hurricanes win a Cup, for helping the franchise build interest in hockey in North Carolina.

"He has done everything with great professionalism," Rutherford said.

Many believe Brind'Amour's career will land him in the Hockey Hall of Fame. His NHL numbers are impressive by any standard. He played in 1,484 regular-season games, with 452 goals and 732 assists (1,184 points). In 159 playoff games, he had 51 goals and 60 assists.

Brind'Amour was a big part of the Hurricanes reaching the 2002 Stanley Cup finals, where they lost to the Detroit Red Wings. He was appointed captain in August 2005, replacing retired Ron Francis, and in the 2006 playoffs, he was at his best.

A two-time Selke Trophy winner as the league's best defensive forward, Brind'Amour contributed in every facet: defensively, scoring key goals, winning important faceoffs, performing effectively on the power play and penalty kill.

Goaltender Cam Ward, then a rookie, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. Many believe the trophy should have been Brind'Amour.

"Maybe the biggest reason we won was because of the way Roddy played and the way he handled the pressure as captain, saying the right things at the right time," Whitney said. "Roddy was the MVP in our locker room."

Brind'Amour signed a five-year, $18 million contract after the 2006 season. But his play was noticeably affected after he severely injured a knee late in the 2007-08 season.

"If he didn't have it, he may very well still be playing," Rutherford said of the injury.

When Brind'Amour was traded to the Hurricanes from the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 23, 2000, he said he was in shock. He had been a hero in Philly, cheered by Flyers fans. Suddenly, that was all gone, and he was alone in Raleigh.

"It was, 'No way I'm staying here,' " Brind'Amour said. "It was, 'The minute this deal is up, I'm out.'

"All of a sudden I started to fall in love with it. The organization treated me just great from day one.

"Obviously, the fan base started going to games, and now you look at it and it's a great place to play."

The past 10 years have made "Brindy" an iconic figure among Hurricanes fans - the "Caniacs" - and in the community. His jersey, No. 17, should soon be retired and in the RBC Center rafters next to those of Francis and Glen Wesley.

Brind'Amour said he will not miss the games so much as the camaraderie, the laughs shared in the locker room and "going into battle with guys who really become your brothers."

"He's been a great teammate and a great friend," forward Erik Cole said. "Everybody sees the games he's played and how many points he's had, and everybody knows about his work ethic, but I don't think anybody understands the volume of his workouts, the consistency to them. Those are really impressive.

"He did so much for us. We'll miss him, for sure."

chip.alexander@newsobserver.com or 919-828-8945

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