Kaberle still has drive

Defenseman wants another Cup, this time with the Hurricanes.

Staff writerJuly 7, 2011 

Tomas Kaberle won't be the most forceful personality in the Carolina Hurricanes' dressing room next season.

Nor will he be the one expecting to be smothered by media attention. And he won't be the one ordering younger players to follow his lead.

So says Canes coach Paul Maurice, who explained, "He does not seek the spotlight. That's not something he's comfortable with. That's not him.

"He's a really nice man and a really good hockey player. In a lot of ways, he's a lot like his brother. They have very similar personalities."

Kaberle, who signed a three-year, $12.75 million free-agent contract Tuesday with Carolina, and his older brother, Frantisek Kaberle, also have something else in common: Both defensemen have won Stanley Cups.

Frantisek Kaberle was on Carolina's 2006 championship team, and Tomas Kaberle lifted the Cup this year with the Boston Bruins.

Tomas Kaberle became an unrestricted free agent Friday, which he called a "long day." Traded to Boston by the Toronto Maple Leafs in February, the former All-Star said he enjoyed his time playing for Bruins.

"Everybody was great to me right from the first day when I got in," he said during a Wednesday conference call.

Boston made him a contract offer, Kaberle said, adding that it was "a little bit different" than the Carolina offer. He offered no other details, however.

"Sometimes," Kaberle said, "it's about the business."

More than mere dollar signs were involved, Kaberle said. His brother had praised the Hurricanes' organization and the passion of Canes fans.

"When he was there ... I thought he was the happiest of the three teams he played for in the NHL," Tomas Kaberle said of his brother.

There also was the matter of playing again for Maurice. For two seasons in Toronto, Maurice was the Leafs' coach, and Kaberle was his star blueliner.

"I had a good relationship in Toronto for the time he was there," Kaberle said.

At 33, Kaberle isn't old, by any means. He's still productive, still one of the best in the NHL at quarterbacking a power play.

But there were questions in Boston at times about his competitiveness, his fight in the one-on-one battles, his reluctance to shoot the puck. He played well in the Stanley Cup finals against the Vancouver Canucks, though.

But what about his motivation? He has the new contract, and he has won a Cup.

"That's the motivation," Kaberle said. "After going through what I've never experienced before, it was amazing. Obviously, you want to do it again."

Kaberle mentioned that one of his Boston teammates, Mark Recchi, has won three Cups, each with a different team. One was with Carolina in 2006.

"That's why you play hockey, you want to be No. 1," Kaberle said.

Kaberle has played against the Hurricanes enough over the past 12 seasons to have a sense of his new team. He has competed against Eric Staal, watched Cam Ward in net and witnessed last season's emergence of Jeff Skinner.

"It's a good team, a good young team," Kaberle said. "There's a good chance to do something special.

"Carolina won (the Cup) when no one expected them to do it. When you play as a team you can do a lot of things."

Kaberle plans to spend the summer in his native Czech Republic, where one of his workout partners is Canes forward Jiri Tlusty. He said the grind of Boston's march to the Cup did not cause any significant injuries and that he should be healthy when he arrives in North Carolina in early September for training camp.

While he may be the newest member of the Hurricanes, it may be a few more weeks before he's in full Hurricanes mode - and understandably so.

On July 20, Kaberle will have his day with the Cup. Much of it will be spent in Kaberle's hometown, Kladno, where the Cup will be on display at an event in Sletišti Stadium.

"It's kind of crazy," Kaberle, chuckling, said of his eventful year. "Obviously things happen for a reason. Obviously, I will do my best for Carolina. I know they want to do well there, and I want to do the same thing."

chip.alexander@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8945

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