Peter Karmanos Jr. has experienced many fabulous moments as owner and chief executive officer of the Carolina Hurricanes, but one still stands out above all others.
It was during Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final when the Hurricanes were playing the Edmonton Oilers.
"Anybody who has experienced a Game 7 on or off the ice knows how much is at stake; how the pressure never stops," Karmanos said. "About halfway through that game I noticed every single person in the arena had been standing since the start. They never sat down until the game ended. That was a tremendous tribute to ice hockey because I remembered the initial reaction when we moved hockey to North Carolina. But the game and the fans came through in Raleigh; they stood and applauded the entire game.
"Oh, and winning the Stanley Cup was also a great moment."
What allows Karmanos to appear like an impervious shield at times is his relentless desire to succeed and defy the odds in the toughest of times. It's his astute business acumen and determination that enabled him to build a hockey empire at all levels of the game in the United States for over five decades.
"He's a passionate guy and when he decides to do something he gives it everything he's got and whatever it takes," Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford told NHL.com. "He's put his heart and soul and money into the game right from the grassroots level and has given a lot of youth players a chance in Detroit to develop their skills and make a career out of hockey."
Karmanos will be inducted into the 2013 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Detroit on Dec. 2 beside former NHL forwards Bill Guerin and Doug Weight, former Michigan State University men's coach Ron Mason and women's international record holder Cindy Curley.
Karmanos, 70, was introduced to the game of hockey in 1951 by his mother at their home in Detroit.
"I loved baseball and football and we didn't play basketball and never saw hockey; I think the only ice around at that time was Olympia [Stadium, in Detroit]," Karmanos told NHL.com. "One night my mom asked me to watch a hockey game with her between the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens."
Little did he know that night would forever change his view of the game.
"I think it was just the players on the ice … Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and Rocket Richard," he said. "I was just fascinated by it even though I was sitting in front of this 11-inch Zenith black and white TV. But you could see the intensity of that game; these guys kept skating back and forth, up and down the ice. I was just captivated by it because it didn't stop and it seemed to be just a free-flowing game. It was so different and so exciting."
From that moment he was hooked.
After graduating Wayne State University in Detroit in 1973, he founded Compuware with partners Thomas Thewes and Allen Cutting. He eventually co-founded the Detroit Compuware Hockey organization in the late 1970s with Thewes. Detroit Compuware still includes all levels of hockey from recreational to AAA and Junior A. The program has produced many NHL stars over the years, including Pat LaFontaine, Al Iafrate, Mike Modano, Eric Lindros and Kevin Hatcher.
To this day, Karmanos still considers his involvement in building Detroit Compuware hockey from the ground up his greatest achievement.
"I really feel very strongly that starting our Compuware youth teams was one of the catalysts of getting American kids past the point of saying, 'I can't compete with the Canadian kids,'" he said. "Compuware, along with the other Detroit program, Little Caesars, were able to really put youth hockey on the map in America. People started saying, 'Wow, something is going on.'
"Being a part of that was an accomplishment, and we didn't get a lot of encouragement about doing that and I knew at that point in time we had some very special kids that certainly would be able to play at the NHL level. I take a lot of pride in putting together that type of program."
He acquired the Hartford Whalers in June 1994 on the afternoon of the NHL Draft at the Hartford Civic Center. After three financially unsuccessful seasons in Connecticut and after an agreement on a new facility between the team and the state of Connecticut could not be reached, Karmanos announced he would relocate the franchise to Raleigh on May 6, 1997.
Karmanos signed a 40-year lease and re-named the team the Carolina Hurricanes.
"I've had several people tell me this is the one thing that people in Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh can all root for," Karmanos said. "All are so used to being archrivals in basketball, but when it comes to hockey they all root for the Canes. They are great fans, polite and they're always very encouraging.
"Since our move to Raleigh the numbers in youth hockey have flourished ten-fold. When we hosted the NHL All-Star Game [in 2011] a lot of people said, 'Wow, this is really a hockey town.' That was a lot of hard work and faith in the game of hockey."
Karmanos also owns the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League, the Florida Everblades of the ECHL and several arenas.
He realized every NHL owner's dream by winning the Stanley Cup in 2006. The franchise has advanced to the Eastern Conference Final three times in the past 10 seasons, winning conference titles in 2002 and 2006.
"[Winning the Stanley Cup] is everybody's goal and I've been with Peter 30 years now and I've learned a lot from him," Rutherford said. "To be able to share the Stanley Cup was very special."
In 2009 the Hurricanes were recognized as the top hockey franchise and second-ranked organization in all of sports by ESPN in its "Ultimate Standings," a collection of data and survey results taking into account a team's on-ice or on-field success.
"The one thing that still discourages me is the Canadian mentality that no matter what has happened, no matter how good a team might get, there's always this adage that hockey doesn't belong in the South," Karmanos said. "I certainly take that to heart as Carolina is in the South. It's such a great game and I have so much respect for all the people in Canada. Understanding how great a game it is, it's tough when you can't convince them that the game, because it's so great, is going to work anywhere."
In 1998 Karmanos earned the Lester Patrick Award for his outstanding service to hockey in the United States and in 2010 received the Ontario Hockey League's Bill Long Award, given to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the league. He was inducted into the 2010 Michigan Sports Hall of Fame and in 2012 received USA Hockey's Distinguished Achievement Award.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
SIDEBAR - KARMANOS: BRIND'AMOUR IS HALL WORTHY
Karmanos, who will be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on Dec. 2, was asked that very question in the wake of the recent Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Toronto.
Karmanos considers Brind'Amour a very worthy candidate for the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"I'm good friends with Chris Chelios so I was at the induction ceremony this year, and the first person that entered my mind when Chelios, Brendan Shanahan and Scott Niedermayer were talking about playing for their teams was Rod Brind'Amour," Karmanos told NHL.com. "I was thinking that Rod fits into that whole thing."
Brind'Amour, who waited 16 seasons before finally raising the Stanley Cup, ranks among the top 20 in games played (1,484, 18th) and top 50 in points (1,184, 46th). He's won a pair of Selke Trophies and captained the Hurricanes to the Cup. During that Cup run in 2006 Brind'Amour had 18 points, including a team-leading 12 goals and four game-winners, in 25 games.
"I'm a little prejudiced because I know what Rod did for our team, but I know how he acts, how hard he works and how important he was to us winning that Stanley Cup," Karmanos said. "I feel very strongly that he should be given consideration."
Brind'Amour, who is eligible for the 2014 Hockey Hall of Fame, currently is an assistant coach for the Hurricanes.
-- Mike G. Morreale
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