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Hurricanes celebrate '06 Stanley Cup

Brind'Amour, teammates focus of 10th anniversary celebration

by Kurt Dusterberg / Correspondent

Ten years have passed since Rod Brind'Amour hoisted the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes. Now an assistant coach for the team, his days revolve around practice, game preparation and the everyday details of family life. But like all players who have their names etched on the Stanley Cup, the memories are there, waiting for the right reminder.

"Usually it's just when I'm at the rink," Brind'Amour said. "Every once in a while I will have a memory of scoring a goal in a big game in the playoffs, maybe thinking of where I was on the ice. It doesn't happen that often anymore, to be honest with you."

The recollections will come back in waves this weekend, when the Hurricanes celebrate their 2006 Stanley Cup championship with two home games, a players' reunion and plenty of activities for the fans.

Key players from the team will take part in autograph sessions, and the Stanley Cup will be on display prior to games against the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

"It is about the fans," said Brind'Amour, the captain of the Cup team. "It was a unique and special time for the franchise, and the fans had a lot to do with it. This is a 'thank you' for them."

A decade ago, Hurricanes fans caught the attention of the hockey world for their elaborate pregame tailgate parties, then made their mark at RBC Center when they stood throughout Game 7 of the Final against the Edmonton Oilers.

"I just remember how loud it was in the building, how the fans didn't sit down the entire Game 7 against Edmonton," said Nashville Predators coach Peter Laviolette, the first-year coach of the Hurricanes in 2005-06. "So many real good memories. Those are just quick snap shots. You could go on and on about that year."

Erik Cole, Niclas Wallin and Craig Adams will sign autographs prior to the game Friday on the PNC Arena concourse, and fans will receive a commemorative poster. On Saturday, the Hurricanes will host a pregame on-ice ceremony honoring the team. Glen Wesley, Ray Whitney, Chad LaRose and Andrew Hutchinson will sign autographs.

Video: 2006 Cup Final, Gm7: Canes Ward wins Conn Smythe

More than a dozen players from the team will participate in the fifth annual Hurricanes Alumni Fantasy Game on Sunday. Fans who pay to play help raise money for the team's Kids 'N Community Foundation. No tickets are required for the game, which will be coached by members of the Carolina coaching staff. Islanders assistant coach Doug Weight will stay in town for the game, joining Aaron Ward, Mike Commodore and others.

Brind'Amour, a mainstay of previous alumni games, was widely considered the catalyst of the 2005-06 team.

"I've never played with a better leader than Roddy," said Matt Cullen, who scored a career-best 49 points centering the third line. "He was the classic lead-by-example guy. I don't know if I've ever played with anyone who works harder than Roddy. The way he played that season, it was impossible not to follow a guy like that."

Brind'Amour led the Hurricanes with 12 playoff goals, some of them pivotal. He is credited with rescuing Carolina from an early playoff exit against the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Having lost the first two games, the Hurricanes trailed 1-0 in Game 3 before Brind'Amour's tying goal in the third period. Eric Staal scored the game-winner in overtime.

"Rod really got a chance to show who he is as a person and a leader inside our locker room," Laviolette said. "The way he played, the season he had, the way he led off the ice by example. When he did say something, it had a real heavy impact on the room. He was a great guy to follow."

Just as Laviolette was new in his role behind the bench, Brind'Amour was settling in as captain. Coming out of the lockout year and following the retirement of Ron Francis, Brind'Amour was ready for the responsibility.

"I took that captaincy very serious when Peter gave it to me," he said. "It was a huge job, but on that team it couldn't have been any easier. They're giving me way too much credit. I played 20 years in this League, and I've never seen a coach push the right buttons the way he did. He brought that team together remarkably well, like no team I have ever been a part of.

"He made us all feel like a family, especially if you don't have the most talented team. We didn't really have any superstars. You have to pull on other things. He did a phenomenal job coaching."

The weekend activities will stir a lot of recollections for everyone involved. But once the players go their separate ways, Hurricanes fans will make sure Brind'Amour's memories stay fresh. They still approach him around town, and even today the talk often is about 2006. 

"It really never gets old talking about it," Brind'Amour said. "I don't like to bring it up, but if someone else brings it up, I love to talk about it. That's how most of the guys feel. You worked a long time in your career to have that moment. This weekend will be fun."

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