Canes owner says he is committed to team - and Raleigh

calexander@newsobserver.comMay 1, 2013 

Karmanos selling ECHL team to focus on Canes: ‘I like owning the Hurricanes … Why would we ever move?’

Peter Karmanos has every intention of selling the Florida Everblades of the ECHL.

He has no intention of selling the Carolina Hurricanes.

In an interview Tuesday, Karmanos said the fact he has put the Everblades and their arena in Estero, Fla., on the market should not be interpreted as an indication he wants or has plans to divest all of his hockey interests.

“I like owning the Hurricanes,” Karmanos said.

Told that his decision to sell the Everblades could cause concern, even some nervousness, among Canes fans, Karmanos laughed.

“Some people have been nervous ever since we moved to North Carolina (in 1997),” he said. “Some called us carpetbaggers. Some were nervous when Compuware stock dropped.

“I keep saying we have one of the best arena deals in the league. We have one of the best facilities. We’re in one of the fastest-growing markets in the country. Why would we ever move?”

The sale of the Everblades, an ECHL affiliate for the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League and the Canes, was announced late Monday. Germain Arena, a 7,000-seat multi-purpose facility, also is being sold.

When the deal is completed, it will end Karmanos’ 15-year ownership of the team, which won the ECHL’s Kelly Cup last season.

“I bought the team as a lark in the late 1990s and we built a very nice building there,” Karmanos said. “It was fun winning the championship last year. I just couldn’t get down to Florida as much as I would have liked, only a handful of times in 15 years.

“I’m 70 years old. I’d like to focus most of my energy on the Hurricanes.”

Karmanos remains executive chairman of Compuware Corp., the Detroit-based business software company he co-founded in 1973. He stepped down as CEO in June 2011.

Karmanos retains majority ownership of the Hurricanes but has sold off a percentage of the team to investors.

The Hurricanes relocated from Hartford, Conn., in 1997 and Karmanos realized every NHL owner’s dream when the Canes won the Stanley Cup in 2006. The Hurricanes now have reached the Stanley Cup playoffs once since 2006, missing the past four seasons.

In looking at this season’s late collapse, Karmanos said the Canes weren’t able to overcome injuries to goaltender Cam Ward and later defensemen Justin Faulk and Joni Pitkanen. Ward suffered a season-ending knee injury March 3 at Florida.

“We had a pretty good record and Cam goes out,” he said. “It was like we were suspended in air for a short time after that injury, for three or four games, and did all right. Then we dropped.

“We lost Faulk. We lost Pitkanen. If a team loses arguably one of the best goalies in the league and then two of its best defensemen, I don’t know of any team that could sustain that and win.”

Despite the string of losses, Karmanos said he found no fault in the efforts of Canes coach Kirk Muller and his staff or the players.

“We still played really, really tough hockey,” he said. “Even when the other teams got breaks, we played hard and were competitive. Our defense was weakened with those three players out.

“Some pretty good teams didn’t make the playoffs. The line between winning and losing in our league is a thin line, the league is so well-balanced.”

Karmanos said he believed the Canes’ top line of Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty was the best in the NHL this season – noting Semin played but was “hurting badly” in about 10 games.

Center Jordan Staal will be a “much better player” next season with a training camp and playing an 82-game schedule, he said. A healthy Tuomo Ruutu will give the team more physicality, something that was needed this season as the Canes finished 19-25-4.

“I’m disappointed for our fans, our management and our players,” Karmanos said. “At the same time next year we should have a very competitive hockey team.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

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