It’s time for sports Wednesday! My son told me that Wednesday is the only day of the week he reads my blog because all he cares about is sports. Today I am going to share my story about why I love the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Carolina Hurricanes.
How could someone from Toronto, with no connection to Raleigh-Durham or any part of North Carolina, be a fan of the hockey team that plays there? It’s simple – they’re good people.
My personal connection to the Canes goes back to the fall of 2001, when I worked as a producer in my first job at the Team 1050 sports radio station. I was young, inexperienced and had few connections in the industry. I did not produce my own show as I was more of a floater, producing the evening and weekend shows and filling in for producers during the day. I didn’t have a black book full of phone numbers of players, coaches and management in sports. I want to thank my colleagues at that radio station once again for giving me names and phone numbers so that I could build my own black book.
By late in the fall I started to produce a regular Saturday hockey talk radio show and found it challenging to book players, coaches and management from Canadian hockey clubs. Every journalist wanted to interview them. But I had to fill my show. So, I looked south of the border and decided to contact hockey personalities in American markets where hockey was not so popular.
That’s when I found the Carolina Hurricanes. This team was having a good but not great season and somehow, I felt they were going somewhere. And nobody noticed them or gave them really any attention. I contacted the team’s public relations department and asked if the captain, Ron Francis, could be on my show. They were thrilled to help me out and Ron was booked.
That Saturday Ron Francis was the featured interview on the show. He was knowledgeable, polite, friendly and really everything a great guest should be on a radio show. I had a chance to speak with him after the interview, and he actually thanked me for booking him! He told me that they don’t get too many interview requests in Carolina and that he and other players would be happy to come on my show again.
For the rest of the NHL season I regularly booked various people connected with the Carolina Hurricanes on my hockey show and other shows, and I saw for myself that this was a first-class organization. When they won their division and made the playoffs I was excited to keep the relationship going and to continue to feature them on my shows.
Because of my loyalty to the Canes all season the public relations staff thanked me by giving me great access to interviews during the team’s incredible playoff run. I remember that I got one of the first interviews with their General Manager, Jim Rutherford, when they won the first round of the playoffs. Even though it was 15 years ago I clearly remember our conversation after his on-air interview. He told me that he appreciated my support for the Canes all season and that I would get some of the first interviews with him, the head coach Paul Maurice and the various players each time they advanced to the next round.
At that moment I knew I had become a fan of the Carolina Hurricanes and I told Jim as much. I told him they were going to make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals and that I would be there to support them all the way. They didn’t win the Stanley Cup that year, but they did make it to the Finals! Jim Rutherford, Paul Maurice, Ron Francis and so many of the team’s players were guests on my shows during that incredible playoff run. I told them all that because of them I had become a fan for life of the Carolina Hurricanes.
I can’t even begin to explain the excitement I felt a few years later, in 2006, when my Canes actually WON the Stanley Cup. I wasn’t working in sports media anymore, but it didn’t stop me from cheering my team on and wearing my Carolina Hurricanes baseball cap proudly.
I will always be a fan of the Carolina Hurricanes and the players, coaches and management associated with the team during the 2001-02 season. Thank you to all of them for making my time as a hockey producer so memorable.