Word spread quickly Wednesday that Cam Ward, for many years the franchise goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes, was officially retiring from the NHL.
Those who played with Ward were especially happy to learn he had signed a one-day contract with the team, allowing him to retire as a member of the Hurricanes.
“Obviously when you’ve played so long for this team, and bringing the (Stanley) Cup here and all the years he played after that, and all he’s done in the community and living here and being a part of North Carolina, he should definitely retire as a Hurricane,” Canes center Jordan Staal said in an interview Wednesday.
Ward, 35, was drafted in 2002 by the Hurricanes, taken in the first round. As a rookie, he was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the playoffs MVP in the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup run. He holds franchise records for career regular-season games (668), wins (318) winning percentage (.557), shutouts (27) and saves (17,261).
Ward played what became the final season of his career in 2018-19 with the Chicago Blackhawks after signing a one-year contract as a free agent in July 2018. His career NHL numbers: 334-256-88 record, a 2.74 goals-against average and 27 shutouts.
“I think he was and always will be kind of a legend in the Hurricanes organization,” Canes defenseman Jaccob Slavin said in an interview.
Cam Ward’s emotional return last season
It’s believed Ward could continue to be associated with the organization as much as former Canes forward Erik Cole has since his retirement -- Cole serving as a team ambassador.
“It was an honor and a privilege to wear the Hurricanes jersey for 13 years,” Ward said in a statement. “Throughout it all, what stayed clear to me was my love for this organization, this city and this fan base. It is why my family and I call Raleigh home, and will continue to call it home. I appreciate all of the support the fans gave me throughout the highs and the lows. I thank you.
“I’d also like to thank the great teammates, coaches and staff members I worked with during my time as a player in Carolina. I will always treasure my memories as a player at PNC Arena, from winning the Stanley Cup to representing the organization in the All-Star Game. While this wasn’t an easy decision, I’m looking forward to making the transition with my family and seeing what the future holds for me, post career.”
Ward made what was a emotional return to PNC Arena last season with the Blackhawks, stopping to admire a collage of photos from Canes fans in the hallway near the Blackhawks’ locker room. It was strange seeing him begin the game in the visitors crease in the south end of the arena after so many year of being on the north end, wearing No. 30 for the Canes.
“I’ll forever be grateful for what the Hurricanes organization and the fan base, the community and friends have all done for me,” Ward said in an interview before the game. “When it’s all said and done, I can look back at all the great memories I had over the years in that city. The plan doesn’t change that it’s where I want to retire and reside.”
Now, he has retired.
Cam Ward highlights, memories
The highlights are many: Ward winning Game 7s against the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers in the Cup run in 2009, then against the New Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins in the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs. It was Ward who stopped the Oilers’ Fernando Pisani late in Game 7 of the ‘06 Stanley Cup finals -- always known as “The Save” -- to preserve Carolina’s lead.
Ward was the “very definition of clinical, elite goaltending under pressure,” said Tripp Tracy, the Canes’ TV analyst and a former goaltender.
Ward picked up his 300th career win on the road, in December 2017 against the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. His last win with the organization came April 7, 2018 against Tampa Bay, in a game Ward and nearly everyone else sensed would be his last in Hurricanes uniform.
“Cam was a cornerstone for this organization for more than a decade,” Don Waddell, the Canes’ general manager and president, said in a statement. “From his ‘Cam’s Champs’ program to his efforts with the Hurricanes Foundation and time spent teaching at our hockey camps, he had a tremendous impact on this community. We’re proud that he has chosen to retire with the Carolina Hurricanes.”