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Brind'Amour Fosters Cultural Shift in First Year as Canes Head Coach

Reflecting on the first 365 days with Rod Brind'Amour behind the bench

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

BOSTON - Outfitted in a black suit with a stark white shirt and a red tie, Rod Brind'Amour strolled down the hallway on the event floor level of PNC Arena to be introduced as the newest head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes.

It was otherwise just another Wednesday in the early doldrums of the offseason, the day after May 8, 2018, when Brind'Amour was officially tabbed as the 14th person in franchise history to serve as head coach.

"I think we're going to do great things," he said in his introductory press conference, alongside Don Waddell, who had the interim tag removed from his general manager title, and majority owner Tom Dundon.

A year removed from that entry in the year-by-year history of this franchise, May 8, 2019 is anything but just another Wednesday in the early doldrums of the offseason.

Brind'Amour again strolled down the hallway on the event floor level of PNC Arena, this time sporting a team-issued hoodie and a Hurricanes hat, and instead of discussing grandiose concepts of the future of the organization, the head coach was focused on the present: preparing the Hurricanes to face the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final.

That Brind'Amour has already accomplished "great things" in his first year may not have been totally expected - at least, not at the level of success the Hurricanes have experienced - but it's not necessarily surprising, either.

"He puts everything he has into it," captain and friend Justin Williams said. "He's fully ensconced in it. When he's motivated on something, he goes all in."

From day one, it was clear what all in meant for Brind'Amour. "Earn it" was the mantra, the foundation upon which he built a message of caring and competing and committing. Expecting to win was no longer a theoretical hope but a practiced belief.

Video: Inside the Storm: Earn It

"He's created a culture that has brought out the work ethic and determination to be out there every night," Jordan Staal said after the regular-season finale. "He's an easy guy to follow with his own work ethic and what he brings to the table every day. The guys have full respect for him and obviously love playing for him."

The early returns speak for themselves.

Brind'Amour was the fastest coach to 20 regular season wins. Then 30. Then 40. He finished the 2018-19 season with the most wins (46) and points (99) by a first-year head coach in franchise history and led the Hurricanes, who had the league's lowest payrolls and one of the youngest rosters, back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 10 years.

"He's an unbelievable coach, and he deserves a little more accolade than he's been getting," Jordan Martinook said. "He's phenomenal."

Though he somehow wasn't a Jack Adams Award finalist, Brind'Amour's impressive list of accomplishments only continued to blossom in the postseason. He became the first head coach in franchise history to win a playoff series in his first season after his team dethroned the defending champs in the First Round, and now the Canes are just four wins away from playing for the Stanley Cup.

Of all people, Brind'Amour knows what it takes to get there. He's been there. His playing career, which spanned more than 20 seasons and 1,484 games and is deserving of Hockey Hall of Fame recognition, as well as his seven years as an assistant coach, have heavily influenced his first 365 days as a head coach.

Brind'Amour the player was renowned for his incredible work ethic and gym rat tendencies. Brind'Amour the coach could probably suit up and hop over the boards, if the NHL rulebook permitted such a substitution.

"He's just beast, you know?" Andrei Svechnikov smiled.

Brind'Amour the player loathed video. Brind'Amour the coach doesn't feel much different, though he begrudgingly recognizes the value it brings.

"It's the one part of the job that blows, I've got to tell you," he laughed. "The one good thing is I've got an unbelievable video coach, Chris Huffine. He's been around for four coaches. He's been around a long time. He gets me the stuff I need to know real quick. I'm lucky in that regard."

Brind'Amour the player, especially Brind'Amour the captain, wasn't too vocal, choosing to lead by example. Brind'Amour the coach is required to talk in some fashion nearly every day, whether it's to the media, to his team at practice, to his team before a game or to his team after a game.

"He's such an unbelievable motivator. After he talks in pregame, you just want to run through a wall," Williams said. "He's done everything right, let us do our thing and lead us along the way. That's the consummate leader of our team."

Brind'Amour still does lead by example through his daily approach and dedication to his work. He's often one of the first to take the ice for practice, running skill drills with other early arrivers, and one of the last to leave the ice, usually sticking around to skate with his kids. 

"Rod leads by example. Rod's not going to ask anybody to do something he wouldn't do himself. That's how he was as a player," Waddell said. "It's not so much just about what you say; it's about what you do. His actions have bled over to this hockey club."

In just a year, Brind'Amour has fostered a cultural shift in the locker room. It happened when he was named captain in 2005, and it happened again 13 years later.

"Everyone wants to play really hard and give everything for him because he would do the exact same for you," Sebastian Aho said.

What has Brind'Amour meant to the Carolina Hurricanes in his first year? What hasn't he meant?

"The way he came in from day one and believed in each guy, what we could be and where we could go is something I think everybody really appreciates. He's a guy with a ton of energy. He comes in every day trying to get better every day, and he demands us to get better every day," Martinook said. "Every guy in this room respects him so much, not just as a coach, but as a person and a player and what he's done. You appreciate that's he's been through it and knows what it takes."

And, to think, this is just the beginning.

"This is my town. I live here. I have a connection to this community," Brind'Amour said in accepting the role of head coach a year ago. "This is obviously a job, but it means more to me."

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