Rod Brind’Amour lifting up the Stanley Cup in 2006, eyes closed and face flush with exultation, quickly became an iconic moment in North Carolina’s sports history.
The Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup championship was the first for a major-league team in the state. Brind’Amour was the captain, the leader, during a stirring season and playoff run that had Canes fans tailgating and celebrating while converting a lot of college and other sports fans into hockey fans.
Brind’Amour, an assistant coach with the Hurricanes, now will have a spot in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. He’s the second hockey player selected for the hall, joining Ron Francis, the Canes’ general manager and executive vice president who was inducted in 2013.
“It’s a great honor,” Brind’Amour said Tuesday. “Obviously Ronnie (Francis) set the table for hockey. He was the first one in and it’s just nice to follow in those footsteps and we’re getting a little footprint here in the state.”
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Joining Brind’Amour in the class of 2016 are former NBA star Eric “Sleepy” Floyd; Olympic gold medalist and N.C. State swimmer David Fox; baseball player and coach James “Rabbit” Fulghum; UNC basketball star Antawn Jamison; NFL star and former N.C. State player Haywood Jeffires; basketball guru Freddy Johnson, motorcycling drag-racer Ray Price and basketball coach Susan Yow, who played at N.C. State.
The hall of fame inductions will be held May 6 at the Raleigh Convention Center.
Brind’Amour’s father-in-law, Eddie Biedenbach, was inducted in 2014. Biedenbach was an N.C. State standout in basketball and a Wolfpack assistant coach, and later head coach at Davidson and UNC Asheville.
Brind’Amour, smiling, joked that Biedenbach’s lobbying may have gotten him in the hall.
“I probably owe him a big thank you,” he said.
Brind’Amour, 45, was traded to the Hurricanes by the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 23, 2000, and arrived in Raleigh appearing shell-shocked by the sudden change in teams and locale. He would join Francis in helping the Canes reach the Stanley Cup final in 2002, become captain before the 2005-2006 season and would become a driving force on the 2006 champions along with such veterans as Glen Wesley, Cory Stillman, Bret Hedican and Ray Whitney.
“We definitely left a mark and even the 2002 team started that, with (hockey) being new here and the excitement that it created in this city,” Brind’Amour said.
Another veteran on the 2006 team was forward Matt Cullen, now with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who said Tuesday, “I’ve never played with a better leader than Roddy. He was a classic lead-by-example guy. I’ve never played with anyone who worked harder than Roddy. The way he played that season, the way he led, it was impossible not to follow that guy.”
Brind’Amour retired as a player in June 2010. He finished 16th in NHL history in games played (1,484), 44th in assists (732), 46th in points (1,184) and 54th in goals (452), in 21 seasons with St. Louis, Philadelphia and Carolina.
Brind’Amour, a member of Canada’s Olympic team in 1998, played 694 games for the Canes and is second in career points since the team’s relocation to North Carolina with 473 points.
Growing up in Western Canada, Brind’Amour said he knew little of North Carolina until 1983, when Jim Valvano’s Wolfpack won an improbable national championship. Later, he said, the kids in his neighborhood pretended to be Michael Jordan in their summer street basketball games.
Because of what he has done for the Hurricanes, for hockey in the state, there now could be kids in North Carolina pretending to be Rod Brind’Amour.
ANOTHER HONOR: Chuck Kaiton, the Canes’ longtime radio play-by-play man, has been named the North Carolina sportscaster of the year for 2015-2016 by the National Sportscaster and Sportswriters Association.