DeCock

2002 Canes rise quickly through hockey ranks

Staff WriterAugust 15, 2011 

Watching the Carolina Hurricanes overachieve in 2002, making it within three wins of the Stanley Cup, it didn't take a hockey expert to figure out that was a special group of guys.

Less than a decade later, 13 of the 32 players who wore a Carolina uniform that season have found jobs in the game since retiring - six as current or former NHL assistant coaches. Kevyn Adams became the latest, joining Lindy Ruff's staff with the Buffalo Sabres this month.

Adams' promotion with his hometown Sabres was no surprise - he had been working in various capacities in the Buffalo front office since 2009 - but what is surprising is the sheer number of players from that 2002 team who still have jobs in hockey.

While Erik Cole remains active in the NHL and a few others are playing overseas, six of their 2002 teammates have been NHL assistant coaches (one is now an AHL head coach), three have front-office jobs and four are either local or national television broadcasters.

That's an amazing percentage.

"If you look at that team, we really had no business being that successful, other than the fact we had a lot of good guys," said current Hurricanes assistant coach Rod Brind'Amour, a key figure on the 2002 team. "They were guys you want to make a team around, who were willing to work and do the little things.

"Maybe that's one of the reasons why you see them moving on. Those are the kind of people you want to be around."

Adams joins Arturs Irbe, the Washington Capitals' former goalies coach, as coaches who didn't get their start with the Hurricanes, the way Brind'Amour, Tom Barrasso, Jeff Daniels and Ron Francis did.

Daniels, who is head coach of the Charlotte Checkers (AHL), is at the head of that class with his Stanley Cup ring from his tenure on Peter Laviolette's staff in 2006.

Martin Gelinas works in a player-development role for the Nashville Predators, as does Glen Wesley with the Hurricanes. Sami Kapanen is the owner and general manager of a team in Finland.

Aaron Ward and Kevin Weekes are studio analysts on national TV, and Chris Dingman and Bret Hedican work locally for the Tampa Bay Lightning and San Jose Sharks, respectively.

A few other Hurricanes from different eras are making their way up the hockey ladder as well. Kevin Dineen was named head coach of the Florida Panthers this summer. Bob Bougner is an assistant coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Scott Walker and Trevor Letowski are head coaches in the Ontario Hockey League, Nelson Emerson works in player development for the Los Angeles Kings, Robert Kron is a scout for the Hurricanes and Gary Roberts is a fitness coach - counseling Jeff Skinner, among others.

Just last week, Nolan Pratt was named an assistant coach in Springfield (AHL).

It's a little early to assess the 2006 team, although Doug Weight is already an assistant coach with the New York Islanders, and the recently retired Mark Recchi is looking for a player-development role. He'll no doubt find it somewhere.

"The market we're in, the onus is on the players to get more involved," Ward said. "The players are less distant. They're part of the community. I think that has a lot to do with it.

"It definitely had a lot to do with how I ended up in broadcasting."

Yet the entire history of the Hurricanes in North Carolina hasn't produced as many hockey coaches, executives and broadcasters as that 2002 team did.

"We had a veteran group of guys, too," Brind'Amour said. "That probably had something to do with it.

"More than anything, they were just good guys. All those guys were quality people - forget what they did as hockey players."

As it turns out, that special season didn't just help secure the franchise's roots in the Triangle. It launched a host of careers, with more sure to come.

luke.decock@newsobserver.com, twitter.com/LukeDeCock or 919-829-8947

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