TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Life after hockey officially began for Rod Brind'Amour Saturday on the opening day of the Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament.
It was indeed strange seeing Brind'Amour in civilian clothes, watching from the stands, but he appears to be settling into his new role as the Carolina Hurricanes' Director of Forwards Development. In all honesty, however, Brind'Amour still looks to be in peak physical condition, capable of going hard for three periods. But in his new role with the team, Brind'Amour will instead serve up his offensive expertise and, perhaps, some workout tips, to those promising prospects within the Carolina organization.
"I guess (Saturday) was my first official day (on the job) because everything else I've been doing has almost been the same. I was training with the young kids back in Raleigh and that's almost like working out like I used to do," Brind'Amour told NHL.com. "Now, it's like I'm up in the stands. Not being out there is different, but I'm going to enjoy it. My role with this team right now is working with the younger players, so I'm looking forward to that. It's life after hockey and it's something I've been thinking about for a while. I'm looking forward to this next stage of my life."
"Rod has some very good points already, but to be in the development part, where Ron (Francis) started, along with Glen Wesley, this is a chance for us to develop a lot of good players," Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford said. "I don't think we did a very good job at developing all of our players prior to Ron Francis taking that position. Since he went in, and then Glen and now Rod, we're developing more and more young players so I'm very happy he accepted his role to stay in the organization."
Francis currently serves as the organization's associate head coach and director of player personnel.
Prospect Jeff Skinner, the seventh-overall choice in the 2010 Draft, already has reaped the benefits of having Brind'Amour as a mentor in Traverse City.
"He's been great, giving us little pointers," Skinner said. "He was talking to us about faceoffs and the little tricks he knows. Anytime he's talking, it's definitely good to listen. He stressed how every player picks up their own tricks as they mature -- and he's got a lot."
"I talked to so many players about (retirement); it's never going to be easy watching my team play without me, but we all knew the day was coming," Brind'Amour said. "It's nice that I'm still around it though, so that's going to be good."
Brind'Amour already was in evaluation mode when asked his thoughts on Carolina's blue-chip prospects participating in Traverse City, including forwards Zac Dalpe and Skinner.
"They're the ones I'll be watching … trying to help them get on the team because they're our top guys and there's going to be room for them on our roster," Brind'Amour said. "We're expecting one, if not both of them, to be there. They're good players, and now it's our job to help them and make sure they become great players."
Brind'Amour, who turned 40 on Aug. 9, will have his No. 17 sweater retired prior to the Hurricanes' home game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 18.
"Both organizations (Hurricanes and Flyers) were big in my career," Brind'Amour said. "It's something you could at least look back on and it'll always be up there … the jersey. It kind of puts the icing on the cake to end your career. It'll be one last chance to kind of get out there and say thank you from me to a lot of people who made it special along the way."
The two-time Selke Trophy-winner inherited the captaincy in Carolina from Francis in 2005, and wore it with dignity until last January, when he passed the torch to Eric Staal.
"I've known (Staal) for a long time," Brind'Amour said. "Ours was a relationship that didn't need words; I know the kind of person he is. We take that role seriously. It's not something to say, 'Whatever.' You're a leader of an NHL hockey team. If I had to pass it on, I couldn't think of a better guy to have it. We all knew he was going to get it, but a lot of times, it simply goes to the best player automatically. There's more to it than that, and he's a great kid and I'm glad he was the one."
Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice is glad Brind'Amour has decided to assist grooming the organization's top prospects.
"He'll be on the ice and around our players, but the impact he had on our organization is going to carry forward for years," Maurice said. "It's no different than what Ronnie Francis did. Rod's game preparation and physical preparation for games is legendary. That has been there for a decade and it's still there. The players train and work out differently now, but I have a different respect for all the things that Roddie brought to our team and that won't change with him still being around."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale