Behind the Scenes
There it was in the morning paper:
National Hockey League
The headline on CarolinaHurricanes.com -- HURRICANES RECALL STEVE HALKO FROM LOWELL -- is just as mundane. But what really happens when a player gets recalled is anything but boring.
After a physical game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at RBC Center on Wednesday, the Hurricanes decided that having an extra defenseman available for Thursday's Southeast Division matchup with the Lightning in Tampa Bay would be a good idea.
So, Halko was recalled. Easy enough.
The transaction surely didn't create waves around the league -- and barely warranted a mention in the local paper -- but what it did was set off a flurry of activity in the Hurricanes front office, with as many as 15 employees springing into action in a well-choreographed fire drill to make sure Halko got to Tampa Bay in time for the game, and was eligible to play once he got there.
The process started on Wednesday night, with a conversation that takes place after every game between Hurricanes Head Athletic Therapist / Strength & Conditioning Coach Peter Friesen and the Canes coaching staff -- head coach Paul Maurice and assistants Randy Ladouceur and Kevin McCarthy. As well as Glen Wesley, who had already been ruled out of Thursday's game, Friesen reported that another defenseman was questionable for the game in Tampa Bay.
The coaches then relayed the message to President / General Manager Jim Rutherford and Vice President / Assistant GM Jason Karmanos, who were already separately on their way to Raleigh-Durham International Airport for the Canes charter to Tampa, through Team Services Manager Brian Tatum.
Knowing that it was likely a player would be recalled from Lowell, Tatum, who was still at RBC Center, also contacted Event Coordinator for Hockey Operations Kelly Kirwin at home at 11:30 p.m. to begin looking for airline flight routes that would get the player to Tampa in time for the game. Kirwin called the Canes 24-hour travel agents at Cardinal Travel.
Director of Media Relations Mike Sundheim was also put on alert that a transaction was possible. He relayed the possibility to Manager of Media Relations Kyle Hanlin, who would be responsible for the press release, and Website Producer, yours truly, who would be responsible for putting the press release on the Canes official site.
Rutherford and Karmanos -- along with Maurice -- discussed the situation on the flight, and decided that Halko was the best candidate to be recalled. Tatum and Sundheim were officially informed immediately, setting the wheels in motion.
Sundheim informed the media employed by the team, radio voice Chuck Kaiton, and television personalities John Forslund and Tripp Tracy, of Halko's recall.
Complicating matters only slightly for the experienced staff, the Lock Monsters had already traveled to St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, for a two-game series against the St. John's Maple Leafs on Thursday and Friday. St. John's is not exactly a travel hub, but a route through Toronto with a direct flight from there to Tampa promised an arrival at Tampa International Airport at around 2 p.m. EST on Thursday.
"We were shocked actually, at how easy it worked out," said Kirwin. "He would go directly to Toronto where he would have about a two-hour layover, and right from there to Tampa, where he would arrive at about 2 p.m. It was much, much better than we ever predicted."
Upon landing in Tampa, Tatum called Kirwin and had her book Halko's flights. Sundheim called Hanlin to get Halko added to the Hurricanes game notes for the Lightning game, which is done remotely by computer. Since it was too late for the transaction to make early editions, a press release was allowed to wait until morning.
Meanwhile, Karmanos phoned officials in Lowell -- Director of Player Personnel Tom Rowe and Head Coach Ron Smith -- to inform them that Halko was being recalled by the big club. Rowe and Smith informed Halko while travel arrangements were being finalized.
Tatum also informed the Hurricanes crack staff of Equipment Managers, Wally Tatomir, Skip Cunningham and Bob Gorman, who were characteristically unfazed by the development. Cunningham, in his 31st year with the organization, has seen a lot -- actually, all -- of the players come, and many of them go. Adding one more stall makes very little difference to him and his colleagues.
"The equipment guys are always prepared," said Tatum. "They've got a jersey for pretty much everybody under contract with the organization. [Halko] is bringing all his other stuff, so we just need a jersey.
"When you're calling up a guy like Halko who is a veteran guy, it goes pretty good."
"Pretty good" is probably an understatement. But even with Halko in Tampa with a No. 28 jersey hanging in his stall, there's still one last step that has to be taken before he could skate in Thursday's game. That step required Executive Assistant Debbie Shannon, who's job it was to make Halko "legal" according to National Hockey League rules.
This requires a pair of "transfers." Shannon fills out a transfer form indicating the player and which team he goes to and from. The paperwork needs to be filed with the NHL via fax prior to the player getting on the ice to play. Then, Lowell must file coordinating transfers with the American Hockey League.
A copy is also faxed to the NHL Players' Association, and the Pro Hockey Players' Association.
"We have a smooth operation here where each of us talks to the next one to make sure we all know what is going on," said Shannon.
That "smooth operation" meant that Halko was in town and ready when he was called upon to dress in place of David Tanabe on Thursday night. Halko will get a lot of credit for his hustle, and deservedly so, but as you can tell, he was far from the only one who contributed.
Kevin Clark is a Producer for carolinahurricanes.com