Eric “Sleepy” Floyd, seated next to Rod Brind’Amour at a Thursday press conference for the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame, joked that the “hockey guy” to his right had given him an elbow in the ribs.
Floyd’s line was good for a laugh. It also was the perfect metaphor.
Since the Carolina Hurricanes’ move to North Carolina in 1997, the NHL team has gently elbowed its way into the sports landscape, earning a place among the slew of college teams, pro football and basketball franchises, NASCAR and the proliferation of high schools and prep sports.
Brind’Amour has been a big part of that as the captain of the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup champions, a member of Carolina’s 2002 Stanley Cup final team and now an assistant coach for the Canes. On Friday, he joined Ron Francis, the former Canes captain and now team executive vice president and general manager, in giving the franchise two members in the hall.
“The history of this state is full of sports,” Brind’Amour said. “I think hockey is creating its own little niche. I know Ronnie (Francis) is the forerunner in getting in, and now I’m kind of following in his footsteps.”
Brind’Amour is one of nine members in the Class of 2016, which was formally inducted Friday in a ceremony at the Raleigh Convention Center. The others included Floyd, a Gastonia native who starred in basketball at Georgetown, former North Carolina basketball All-America Antawn Jamison and former N.C. State wide receiver Haywood Jeffires, who all had very good pro careers.
The Wolfpack was well-represented with swimmer David Fox, a former Olympic gold medalist, and Susan Yow, an All-America in basketball for the Pack who is the younger sister of the late Kay Yow and Wolfpack athletic director Debbie Yow, both Hall of Fame members.
Rounding out the class are two former high school coaches, Freddy Johnson of Greensboro Day and James “Rabbit” Fulghum of North Edgecombe and Greene Central; and the late Ray Price of motorcycle fame known as “The Father of the Funnybike.”
Fulghum grew up in Rock Ridge, calling himself a ol’ farm boy, with former Gov. Jim Hunt. The two were once the starting guards on their high school team, Fulghum said.
Jamison went to UNC out of Providence High in Charlotte to play for the late Dean Smith and Jeffires was a multi-sport star at Greensboro Page before going to N.C. State.
Then there was Floyd, who wound up at Georgetown playing for Hoyas coach John Thompson after leading Gastonia Hunter Huss to the state 4-A title.
What pulled him out of the state?
“I didn’t know anything about Georgetown, (Thompson) didn’t even recruit me in high school,” Floyd said. “He came down … to Gastonia and watched me play for 15 minutes and said, ‘I want you to come to Georgetown.’ I took a visit up there and at the time my sister was going to Howard University. I said, ‘Oh, I can take this free trip up to D.C. and can get to see my sister.’
“It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. There was no way I could fail. It was just set up for me perfectly.”
Floyd remains the Hoyas’ career scoring leader with 2,304 points and is in the school’s hall of fame. As for his nickname, he got that during a youth baseball game when a fan supposedly yelled something about getting him out of the game because he was sleeping.
Yow, the coach at Queens University in Charlotte, played her senior season for Kay Yow at N.C. State after three years at Elon and was the Pack’s first women’s All-America. She also served as an assistant coach on Yow’s staff on the U.S. Olympic team that won gold in Seoul in 1988.
Kay Yow was inducted into the N.C. sports hall in 1989 and Debbie Yow in 2006. On Friday, it was Susan’s turn.
“Kay afforded me a lot of opportunities in the game of basketball — a lot,” Susan Yow said. “There’s that connection with Kay, being a collegiate coach.
“Debbie and I were closer in age and I really got to see her go through her career, in high school particularly. I grew up wanting to be like her and follow in her footsteps.”
The playing field now has been leveled a bit, Susan Yow said, smiling. She has some hall of fame bragging rights of her own.