The Hurricanes fourth-floor offices face southward, with Carter-Finley Stadium outside of our windows. Jim Rutherford’s office is the last office on the western end of the row, and Chief Financial Officer Mike Amendola’s office is at the eastern end. Jim marched from his office to Mike’s just about every day when he was making decisions – whether they concerned business or hockey.
Some days, he carried a putter.
The long-running office urban legend went like this: Jim has his putter, so he’s about to make a trade. I never was truly able to figure out if it was true. Sometimes, I think he did it just to mess with us. He would walk down the hall with that stick in his hand, and next thing I knew, Kevin from accounting was popping his head into my office, asking if I knew what was going on.
He always carried that putter on deadline day. It was such a tradition and that when he was on the road with the team for deadline day this year, I grabbed it and set it out in the hallway. Just in case.
But I’m fairly certain Jim was holding that putter the day he acquired Bret Hedican and Kevyn Adams for Sandis Ozolinsh. He had it when he brought Kevin Weekes in from Tampa two months later. And when he added Doug Weight to the roster in January 2006. As a general manager, there will be days when you are right, and days when you are wrong. Those days, putter in hand, Jim made decisions that lead to banners that hang from the rafters of PNC Arena.
I’ll forever be in debt to Jim for so many things. He helped to ensure the intern everyone called “Junior” became a full-time employee. He was firm and direct as a boss, but classy and respectful to everyone who worked for him, from his assistant general manager, to his fourth-line winger to the part-timer working the elevators. And he made sure the two PR guys who spent Sunday mornings at the practice rink, enduring the grind of a season that lasted 107 games, were taken care of in the summer of 2006. That included the ultimate, lasting honor of our names on the greatest trophy in sports.
As employees and fans of the Hurricanes, we all owe Jim our gratitude. Not only did he help bring the NHL to Raleigh, he grabbed that putter and made decisions that lead to some of the most thrilling moments in Triangle sports history.
Because of Jim Rutherford, we all stayed up into the wee hours watching a triple-overtime Stanley Cup Final game in the Triangle.
Because of Jim Rutherford, we hosted the best and brightest NHL stars for an All-Star Game, bringing tremendous positive attention to our city, region and state.
Because of Jim Rutherford, we stood for an entire Stanley Cup Final Game 7 on Edwards Mill Road, and North Carolina had its first major professional sports championship.
I’m not sure what happens to that putter now. Will it lean against a wall in his Raleigh home? Does he pass it on to Ron Francis? Will his young son someday use it to tap in a birdie?
Would it be completely ridiculous for a golf club to represent part of hockey history in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame?
I do know one thing about that putter. I am proud to have worked for the man who held it.
There’s obviously plenty of media to digest from yesterday, but make sure you don’t miss Amber Jaye’s sit-down interview with our new general manager, or Michael Smith’s feature about Ron. Mike Smith also dug up a series of old blogs I wrote about Ron Francis, to try to show the personal side of the new leader.
- 99.9 The Fan: Ron did a one-on-one with Joe Ovies for the Fan’s afternoon show yesterday. Hear it here. Joe also spoke to Jim Rutherford, which you can hear here, and Mike Maniscalco interviewed Canes owner Peter Karmanos after the news conference, and that audio is here.
- Hockey Night in Canada Radio: Ron spoke to Mike Brophy and Rob Pizzo to discuss his new gig. Hear that interview here.
- TSN 1050 (Toronto): Ron spoke to an old friend at 12:15, as he joined Jeff O’Neill and others on TSN 1050. You can hear that audio here.
- Sportsnet 590 the Fan (Toronto): Ron visited the Marek vs. Wyshynski show on Fan 590 around 2 p.m. Listen to that audio here.
- NHL Network Radio (Sirius/XM): New Hurricanes Assistant General Manager and Director of Hockey Operations Mike Vellucci joined Scott Laughlin at 2:25. You can listen to that here.
- NHL Network (TV): Ron called into NHL Live with Steve Mears and E.J. Hradek. Watch that here.
- David Glenn Show: Ron will guest on the David Glenn Show at 11:30 a.m. Listen here.