RALEIGH — Rod Brind'Amour's jersey will be retired tonight by the Carolina Hurricanes, and rightfully so.
He captained the Canes to the 2006 Stanley Cup championship. He was the quintessential leader with his work ethic, on and off the ice. He twice won the Selke Trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward and had 1,184 career points. He played 1,484 regular-season games, 694 in a Carolina sweater.
That's why a No. 17 banner will be raised to the RBC Center rafters tonight, joining the two other retired Hurricanes jersey numbers - Ron Francis' No. 10 and Glen Wesley's No. 2.
But a bigger question remains: Could Brind'Amour one day join Francis in the Hockey Hall of Fame? Does his 21-year career warrant it?
"I believe it does," Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said in an interview this week. "He played a long time. He did things the right way. He has the points, he captained a Stanley Cup champion. And he always treated the game with great respect."
Laviolette will be at the RBC Center tonight. The banner ceremony will begin at 7 p.m., and the Flyers and Hurricanes will face off at 8. The Flyers will don No. 17 jerseys during pregame warmups to honor Brind'Amour.
Laviolette was behind the Canes' bench in 2006 for the Cup run. Though he had coached against Brind'Amour, he gained a better perspective and deeper appreciation for the hard-nosed center after becoming Carolina's coach in December 2003.
"He practiced the right way, he prepared the right way, he trained the right way and he played with passion and purpose," Laviolette said. "He set the example for everything a player should be."
Francis was the Hurricanes' captain in 2002, when they reached the Stanley Cup final. A two-time Cup winner with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in November 2007.
Francis said Brind'Amour, who succeeded Francis as Canes captain in 2005, has the credentials for Hall of Fame consideration.
"To do it as long as he did it is a huge compliment to him and to his determination and desire to be one of the best," Francis said. "He hoisted a Cup over his head, he'll have his number up top. He's just had an awesome career."
Francis, the Hurricanes' associate head coach and director of player personnel, said Hall of Fame selections are made "sort of by a secret committee." The 18-member group - a mix of Hall of Fame members, hockey officials and media - meets in June each year to vote on new honorees.
Players must be retired three years before being nominated, although there have been exceptions for such stars as Wayne Gretzky. Francis was inducted two years after he announced his retirement.
"Certainly, he's got a Cup and a lot of things they look for," Francis said of Brind'Amour. "It will be interesting to see what they decide. I'd love to have him in there with me."
Brind'Amour, who retired June 30, spent parts of nine seasons with the Flyers - helping Philadelphia to the Stanley Cup finals in 1997 - before the trade to Carolina in January 2000. One of his former Flyers teammates is center Dainius Zubrus, now with the New Jersey Devils.
"I don't think anyone ever had to worry about him not being focused on the right things," Zubrus said. "Later, as you play against him, you could see how close he was to being a complete player. Great in the faceoffs. He was great on the power play, great on the P.K. [penalty kill].
"Whether down a goal or up a goal you always wanted Rod on the ice. Not many guys did it, at that level, for that long."
Zubrus smiled, noting the Flyers' workout facility had a weight room on the second floor.
"Every time you heard a big bang, everyone said, 'That's Roddy, dropping the weights,'" Zubrus said.
Brind'Amour's devotion to the weight room and physical conditioning is legendary. Francis joked he got tired just watching Brind'Amour work.
Brind'Amour maintained a wide-eyed, snorting-bull intensity during games. The Canes' Erik Cole said he quickly learned about "the Brind'Amour look" as a rookie during the 2002 playoffs, when Brind'Amour, Cole and former forward Bates Battaglia made up the "BBC line."
"Once Bates and I got comfortable with him, we'd try to crack a joke with him at times on the bench," Cole said, smiling. "He'd look over at us, and we'd see that expression on his face. It was there the entire 60 minutes. He was such an intense competitor that it was like he didn't even hear you say anything."
Paul Maurice was the Canes' coach in 2002. He also was the Canes' coach last year, in Brind'Amour's final season, when Brind'Amour was made a healthy scratch in a game, played on the fourth line at times and gave up the team captaincy to Eric Staal.
"It wasn't an easy situation, but it was made as easy as possible by Rod's professionalism," Maurice said. "He handled it as well as any man could.
"He helped the younger guys coming in. They didn't feel any pressure. He didn't make it about them and him. He was great."
Brind'Amour didn't feel great about the 2000 trade from the Flyers, saying, "It was one of the worst days of my career. I loved playing in Philly. Up to that point I bled orange and black."
His first few days in Carolina, Brind'Amour rode to the arena with forward Jeff Daniels.
"You could tell he was kind of overwhelmed," Daniels said. "He had been such a big player in Philadelphia and there was the shock of being traded and being in a new [hockey] market.
"But he quickly fell in love with the area. He went to work, threw himself into it."
There was one small matter. Daniels wore No. 17 for the Canes. Brind'Amour, who had that number with the Flyers, initially was given No. 27 with the Canes.
But Daniels, now coach of the Charlotte Checkers, was willing to give up No. 17 the next season.
"Rod was low-key about it, and it really wasn't a big deal," Daniels said. "It was just a number to me, and I knew Rod had worn 17 throughout his career and had more of an attachment to it.
"I told him, 'If you want it, it's yours.'"
Brind'Amour took it, of course. He wore No. 17 well. No other Carolina Hurricanes player will wear it again.
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