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Former Hurricanes GM Rutherford gets Hockey Hall of Fame call

The Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford, left, and owner Pater Karmanos Jr. greet the fans as they come off the ice after hoisting the Stanley Cup in Raleigh on June 19, 2006. The Canes beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup finals.
The Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford, left, and owner Pater Karmanos Jr. greet the fans as they come off the ice after hoisting the Stanley Cup in Raleigh on June 19, 2006. The Canes beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup finals.

As a kid growing up an hour north of Toronto, Jim Rutherford once attended the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

“It was a day where I thought, man, this is really special,” Rutherford said Tuesday.

In November, three Stanley Cups later, he’ll get his chance on the stage. The former Carolina Hurricanes general manager was announced Tuesday as one of two builders in the Hall of Fame’s class of 2019, joining Boston College coach Jerry York and players Guy Carbonneau, Vaclav Nedomansky, Hayley Wickenheiser and Sergei Zubov.

Rutherford, who not only built the Hurricanes’ 2006 championship team but oversaw the team’s move to North Carolina from Connecticut, later won a pair of titles with the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he remains general manager.

“It’s something you don’t think about a lot, but there’s times where you pause and dream about it,” Rutherford said.

As a goalie, Rutherford played 459 games in the NHL, mostly for the Detroit Red Wings, and was as well known for being one of the first goalies to play with a decorated mask as he was for his play in the net. Former Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos dragged him into management, first in 1984 with Karmanos’ junior hockey team and later with the Hartford Whalers and then the Hurricanes.

“To get a franchise up and running (in North Carolina) was not an easy task, playing in Greensboro the first two years, with no real home base,” said former Hurricanes captain and general manager Ron Francis, a member of the Hall of Fame’s 18-member selection committee. “To be able to convince the NHL to bring the NHL Draft to Raleigh and bring the All-Star Game to Raleigh really were benchmark events. For the league, the All-Star game changed (the perception) of Raleigh in the way it was presented.”


Rutherford retired from the Hurricanes in 2014 only to come out of retirement with the Penguins that fall, where he became the only GM in the NHL’s modern era to win the Stanley Cup with two different teams.

“I kind of worked my way up,” Rutherford said. “I think the longevity for me is the fact that I’ve worked with really good people. We won the Stanley Cup in Carolina against the odds. We certainly weren’t odds-on favorites to win it that year. Then I was fortunate to have the opp to be hired by Pittsburgh.”

Rutherford, 70, joins Karmanos and Francis in the Hall of Fame. Another former Hurricanes captain, Rod Brind’Amour, was passed over by the committee for the seventh straight year. There may be some hope for him in this year’s selections: Zubov waited eight years and Carbonneau 19, and like Brind’Amour, was an elite defensive forward

The Hurricanes, though, were not shut out thanks to Rutherford, who still owns a home in Raleigh and spent almost two decades here.

“It’s hard to put in words how much I appreciate this,” Rutherford said. “It’s such a humbling last hour or two here.”

Staff writer Chip Alexander contributed to this report

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Sports columnist Luke DeCock has covered the Summer Olympics, the Final Four, the Super Bowl and the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup. He joined The News & Observer in 2000 to cover the Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a columnist in 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and has won multiple national and state awards for his columns and feature writing while twice being named North Carolina Sportswriter of the Year.
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