When Carolina Hurricanes players walked into their familiar locker room along the west side of PNC Arena on Sunday, it wasn’t so familiar anymore.
During the summer, the Centennial Authority, an appointed body that oversees PNC Arena, approved renovations of the Hurricanes locker room – from the lockers to the player lounge to the bath facilities to the wall art. It was the first major construction the room has seen since the building opened just over 13 years ago.
“The room was really outdated compared to other buildings, and rightfully so. At this stage of where we’re at the building, we expected that,” said Jim Rutherford, president and general manager of the Hurricanes. “With the way the new dressing rooms were being built, it was quite a bit different.”
At the start of last season, the organization began doing research into the amenities often found in newer dressing rooms. The equipment and training staff took notes and pictures in the numerous buildings they visited in order to report back to Dave Olsen, executive vice president and general manager of PNC Arena, Brian Tatum, vice president of team operations, and others.
Plans came together, and over the summer, the room received a top-to-bottom renovation that was kept away from prying eyes until this week.
“The Centennial Authority was great to work with,” Rutherford said. “They totally understood it.”
The result is a first-class facility fit for a professional sports team, one that proudly displays its history throughout.
“You walk through that room, and it’s really like the museum of the Hurricanes because you’ll see a picture in a certain place in the room and say, ‘Oh yeah, I remember that game.’ And you start talking about the game and all the things that happened,” Rutherford said. “That’s nice for all of us that have been there. But it’s really nice and important for new players to come in and see the tradition here, see what we’ve done and what we want to work toward in the future.”
One of the new players, Jordan Staal, was impressed with what he saw.
“It’s a great room,” he said, looking around. “It’s all redone now, and the guys seem to love it.”
The players who have been around for years were also caught gawking at the redesign. Even though it’s the same space, it feels like a completely new room.
“A lot of guys were excited when we heard about the new room,” Chad LaRose said. “We’ve got a ton of great guys here, and a ton of great guys have come through here. To see it on the walls is awesome.”
The locker portion of the dressing room was completely gutted, as the old, light-wood stalls were discarded in favor of new, dark-wood lockers. The corner lockers are angled to make the square room feel more rounded, and there are no longer dividers between the individual stalls, which makes the room feel more open.
A mural of various iconic images throughout the franchise’s history wraps the upper wall around the stalls.
Individual achievements, including Jeff Skinner’s Calder Trophy, Rod Brind’Amour’s Selke Trophies, Cam Ward’s Conn Smythe Trophy and Ron Francis’ Lady Byng Trophy, are honored along the wall leading into the locker area.
In addition, a number of memorable moments in the franchise’s history are pictured on the walls throughout the room. Team photos from each year dating back to the franchise’s time in Hartford line the walls leading back to the coaches’ offices.
The bike room is wrapped in similar fashion as the upper wall of the locker room; it features momentous photos and a smattering of Pete Friesen’s favorite buzzwords: commitment, character, composure and motivation, among others.
“Just coming in and seeing all the accomplishments of this organization alone and all the great players who came through here really gets the tingles going on your back,” LaRose said.
The memories of Steve Chiasson and Josef Vasicek are remembered with their framed jerseys hanging on the wall across from the bike room, and winners of the Steve Chiasson Award are recorded on a nearby plaque. Voted on by the players, that award is given annually to the player that best exemplifies determination and dedication while proving to be an inspiration to his teammates through his performance and approach to the game.
“The players are always a special group every year, and they have a special bond,” Rutherford said. “There are some sad remembrances and some great remembrances from games, series and winning the Cup.”
For good measure, the 2006 Stanley Cup Championship is the most notable of the achievements highlighted within the room. As the players enter the dressing room from the north entrance of the arena, sleek silver lettering spelling out “2006 Stanley Cup Champions” adorns the wall. A picture of the team taken on the ice the night of June 19, 2006, spans the height of the right wall that leads out to the bench.
It’s the last thing the players see before stepping onto the ice for a reason.
“It makes me want to get another one on the other side,” LaRose said.