Many of the Carolina Hurricanes players were on hand Sunday for the annual Canes 5k run, being introduced before the run and exchanging high- and low-fives with fans of all ages.
Then there was Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour, who went one step further: running in the race.
Joining Brind’Amour were assistant coaches Jeff Daniels and Dean Chynoweth, and the more than 800 runners who turned out for the event that benefits the newly named Carolina Hurricanes Foundation while serving as something of an unofficial kickoff to the new season.
“It’s important to support the cause,” Brind’Amour said. “I wasn’t sure I was going to run ... but this foundation does such a great job in the community and if I can help in any way, I’m going to do it.”
No jogging along for Brind’Amour. In a scene reminiscent of the 2008 run, he pushed himself to the finish line and was among the top finishers.
In 2008, Brind’Amour, then the Canes captain, continued to run despite persistent knee pain and needed knee surgery for torn cartilage a few days after the race. He has participated in the Canes 5k since 2008 while an assistant coach, but none of the players ran Sunday.
“It’s definitely in the back of my mind when I’m coming down the stretch,” Brind’Amour said, smiling. “I don’t encourage (the players) one way of the other, but they have their testing coming up and these guys don’t really run. This isn’t part of their training, long-distance running.
“I’ll be hurting the next couple of days. I don’t need those guys doing that.”
The Canes’ preseason training camp begins Thursday with physicals and testing. The first on-ice sessions at PNC Arena begin at 8:45 a.m. on Friday.
Brind’Amour said all the players have returned to Raleigh except for defenseman Brett Pesce, who continues to be evaluated for what Brind’Amour called an upper-body concern.
“I don’t know a lot about it other than (Pesce) keeps telling me he’ll be here when we’re ready to go,” Brind’Amour said.
Brind’Amour said, and general manager Don Waddell later confirmed, that the Canes would have one player in training camp on a professional tryout, or PTO: defenseman Michal Cajkovsky, who competed for Slovakia in the 2018 IIHF World Championship and played in the KHL last season. Cajkovsky, 26, was listed at 6-4 and 236 pounds on the Slovakia roster and was coached on the national team by Craig Ramsey, whose NHL head coaching stops included the Atlanta Thrashers.
Brind’Amour did not travel to the Traverse City (Mich.) prospects tournament this week, saying he can watch the Canes games online and continue to work in Raleigh to prepare for camp.
“It’s more important to be around the guys here, I think,” he said. “We’ve got so many new faces and any kind of face-time I can get with the guys is beneficial.”
Alexander Thomas, 24, of Raleigh was the overall winner of the Canes’ 5k, held on an overcast day with temperatures in the 70s. The turnout was a record for the event sponsored by UNC Rex Healthcare.
Big winning trophy, too. The base is made of hockey sticks.
Thomas lifted the trophy over his head, triumphant. Said the Canes’ John Forslund, who handled the mike duties, “Let’s hope we see something like that in late June.”