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New Hurricanes owner commits to Raleigh market

Dundon eager to get started, wants to enhance fan experience

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

The news conference to introduce Tom Dundon as the majority owner of the Carolina Hurricanes was being delayed, and while they talked on the dais, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman could see Dundon fidgeting in his chair, eager to get started.

"Tom is champing at the bit," Commissioner Bettman told the media and Hurricanes staff members in attendance at PNC Arena on Friday. "Punctuality will be at the cornerstone of this franchise moving forward."

 

[RELATED: Dundon becomes majority owner of Hurricanes | Bye weeks for 2017-18 season]

 

Dundon's impatience was clear throughout the news conference, and he made it clear to anyone watching that he wants to get to work immediately on transforming the Hurricanes into the successful, profitable, championship team he envisions.

"I'm not patient," Dundon said. "It's not going to work for me to be patient."

Immediately after the news conference, Dundon sent out a letter to the Hurricanes fans, expressing his commitment to the market and some the immediate changes he's planning, including supplementing the training and analytical staffs and building a new practice facility.

The good news is Dundon, the 46-year-old chairman and managing partner of Dundon Capital Partners, a Dallas-based private investment firm, is taking over a young team that appears on the verge of a breakthrough on the ice. The Hurricanes held the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference entering their home game against the Washington Capitals on Friday.

The Hurricanes haven't qualified for the playoffs since 2009, but Dundon expressed confidence that general manager Ron Francis, coach Bill Peters and their staffs have the team on the right path hockey-wise. It will be up to him to produce success business-wise.

"What I think is the most important thing we have to do, knowing that we've got folks that understand how to build a great hockey team and have a great foundation, is figure out how to give a great fan experience," Dundon said. "I don't think I'm happy with what a fan gets when they come here tonight. Other than the great hockey, we need to do more than that. And that's our focus right now."

Video: Tom Dundon talks about acquiring the Hurricanes

The sale was completed Thursday, with Dundon purchasing 61 percent of the Hurricanes from Peter Karmanos, who bought the Hartford Whalers in 1994 and moved them to North Carolina in 1997, when they were renamed. Karmanos, 74, retains a minority stake in the team and will serve as an advisor to Dundon.

"Tom says he's not patient. There isn't an owner, I think, that's patient in the true definition of the word," Karmanos said. "But you have to put that aside and try to do the right things."

Karmanos provided an example of how his own impatience once cost him, referencing the five-year, $35 million extension the Hurricanes gave forward Alexander Semin in 2013. The Hurricanes ended up buying out the final three seasons in 2015 after the enigmatic Semin struggled to live up to it.

"So one of the things that I can do, Gary can do, Ronnie can do, is help Tom through those periods of time when you want to do something stupid," Karmanos said.

Karmanos can also tell Dundon about how good the Raleigh market can be if the Hurricanes can consistently have a competitive team. Commissioner Bettman reminisced about the scene outside PNC Arena before playoff games when the parking lots would be filled with tailgating fans. Inside the arena, the atmosphere was electric during the Hurricanes' run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2002 and the Eastern Conference Final in 2009.

The crowning moment came when they defeated the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final there.

"During the Stanley Cup Final, Game 7, this is the first time at a professional sporting event that I can recall that everybody stood for the entire game," the Commissioner said. "This is a community that has embraced NHL hockey and the Hurricanes. I know there has been speculation and rumor and innuendo about the future of this franchise. Let me tell you, as I repeatedly said over the years, this franchise wasn't going anywhere and isn't going anywhere."

Video: Gary Bettman: "Tom is perfect for this franchise"

Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2006 when he was 22, would love to see those glory days return. Having met with Dundon in the past month, Ward can tell he's done his homework and understands the potential of the market.

"He's genuinely really excited," Ward said. "The players feel that excitement from him. I think he's a guy that makes an impact, wants to win, wants to make a Raleigh a place where players want to come and play. As players, that's always exciting to hear that from your owner."

Dundon spoke Friday about increasing ticket sales and getting the community engaged with the team.

Winning always helps. Dundon believes there are "a hundred little things" he can do, as well.

He admitted he doesn't have an exact business plan yet and didn't want to discuss the details he has figured out, but it won't take long for them to be revealed.

"I'm probably not going to do a lot of speeches and talking," Dundon said. "We're just going to go do stuff. Then, people will decide if they like it, and if they don't' like it, we'll try to do better."

As for his financial commitment, Dundon said, "I value winning more than money, but it doesn't mean I want to burn it."

He then told the story of how he almost walked away from the sale when Karmanos, "wasn't OK with my price." The problem for Dundon was they'd begun talking during training camp, and by that point, he was emotionally hooked.

"I'd been watching the team, and now I'm invested," Dundon said. "And now I'm done, it's over. I'm irrelevant, and I can't do what I want to do with the organization, so I called him back, groveling. That's how we came to our deal.

"So I've already sort of proven that I'll make an irrational financial decision if it means we can win."

Video: Tom Dundon Press Conference

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