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Bill Cowher cranks Hurricanes' siren before Game 4

Tuesday, 05.26.2009 / 7:55 PM / Conference Finals: Pittsburgh vs. Carolina

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

"I guess it's different to see him smile and talk to you normally on the side of the street without spitting and growling at you. He's a good man and we like it because the fans here are passionate about their football and they love Bill Cowher. Anything that he can do to help us is great."
-- Scott Walker on Bill Cowher

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Bill Cowher might have excelled in football, basketball and track for Carlynton High located in a small suburb of Pittsburgh, but his career on the gridiron really took shape at North Carolina State, where he starred at linebacker in the late 1970s.

The former Steelers coach is enjoying retirement with his family in Raleigh. On Tuesday, Cowher walked the red carpet on the ice prior to the opening faceoff of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals in an attempt to fire up the Caniacs in attendance by cranking the Hurricanes' warning siren.

While it certainly delighted the 18,000-plus in attendance, it had to be a downer to those Pittsburgh fans watching back home. Tuesday marked the third time Cowher was asked to sound the ceremonial siren -- a tradition before each Carolina home game. Of course, he never had the chance to do it before a postseason game in which the opponent happened to be a disciple of the Steel City -- the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Cowher's been a visible fan in the area since moving to Raleigh, whether attending college basketball games, football games or 'Canes hockey.

"He lives here now, has built a home and he's a good man and was a very intense coach," said Carolina forward Eric Staal, who opened the scoring 1:36 into the game. "He certainly was a winning coach with the Steelers and, hopefully, he brings some good luck (Tuesday) night."

The million-dollar question, however, is has Cowher actually converted over into a Hurricanes fan after spending 15 seasons as coach of the Steelers.

"I know he's a fan because he's good friends with (associate coach) Ron Francis and I've met him a few times," Staal said. "He enjoys coming to the games and watching and I think he's become a fan of our team game and the way we play, so that's cool for us."

Cowher, who succeeded Chuck Noll at Steelers coach in 1992, captured eight division titles, 10 playoff berths and won one Super Bowl. He resigned on Jan. 5, 2007, and is currently a studio analyst for "The NFL Today" on CBS.

"We get to see Bill walking around a lot and he lives close to some of the guys and we've met him," forward Scott Walker said. "I guess it's different to see him smile and talk to you normally on the side of the street without spitting and growling at you. He's a good man and we like it because the fans here are passionate about their football and they love Bill Cowher. Anything that he can do to help us is great."

Carolina coach Paul Maurice is hoping Cowher can improve to 2-1 on days he sounds the siren for the 'Canes.

"That's what we're hoping for -- we're expecting him to bring us a victory, it's all on him," Maurice said with a grin. "I've met him once and had a chance to sit and talk a little bit about training camp and how they do things and their messages and their approach. He's a really interesting guy with lots of energy and lots of enthusiasm. It's nice to get a chance to meet those guys. I know he's jacked up to be doing this and he was sour after his first effort when we lost."

Cowher was a good luck charm in Game 3 against Boston in the Conference Semifinals when he cranked the pre-game siren to ignite the 'Canes 3-2 overtime victory. Former Hurricanes winger Bates Battaglia sounded the siren prior to Game 3 against Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.

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