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Karmanos thankful for hockey moms, wife's support

by Tim Wharnsby

TORONTO -- After Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis bestowed his boss Peter Karmanos Jr. with his Hockey Hall of Fame plaque, among the people the Hurricanes owner thanked were all the hockey moms, a group which included his wife, Danialle.

"I would like to thank her for her support and wisdom," said Karmanos, who lost his first wife Barbara to breast cancer in 1989. "Danialle, I can't tell you how much you mean to me. I love you very much and I don't know where I'd be without you."

Here are three other highlights from the 72-year-old Karmanos' speech:

1. How he fell in love with hockey

Karmanos was born and raised in Detroit. His mother was an athlete, particularly prolific in bowling and field hockey, but was a fan of most sports.

One night, she allowed her son to stay up late and watch a hockey game on television. It was the 1951-52 NHL season and only the third period of the Detroit Red Wings games were broadcast, beginning at roughly 10 p.m.

Karmanos recalled his family had purchased its first television a few weeks earlier, an 11-inch round screened Zenith.

That first game Karmanos watched was between the Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens. Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, Ted Lindsay and Terry Sawchuk lined up for the Red Wings, while Maurice Richard, Bernie Boom-Boom Geoffrion, Dickie Moore and Doug Harvey were skating for the Montreal side.

"I watched every second of that game and it started a lifelong obsession," Karmanos said.

2. Start of Compuware Hockey

In 1973, Karmanos and his friend, the late Tom Thewes, pooled their tax refunds (about $9,000) together to form the high-tech company, Compuware.

The early success of the company enabled the two hockey-loving friends to form Compuware Sports Corporation. The high-tech company grew the rate of the minor hockey empire.

Compuware teams have won 16 national titles, 34 state titles and two famed Quebec Pee-Wee tournament championships. More than 225 players have gone onto to earn U.S. College scholarships.

Pat LaFontaine, Al Iafrate, Jimmy Carson, Pat Peake as well as Kevin Hatcher and Derian Hatcher are a sample of the players that graduated from the program.

3. From Junior to NHL

Karmanos met former Red Wings goalie Jim Rutherford after he retired in 1983. The Compuware boss convinced Rutherford to join him in pursuit of one day owning a NHL team.

But first Karmanos and Rutherford bought the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League in 1984 and then started their own junior team, the Detroit Junior Red Wings five years later.

The Junior Red Wings later became the Plymouth Whalers.

In 30 years, the Spitfires and Whalers teams won three OHL championships, but never the Memorial Cup.

In the meantime, Karmanos bought the Hartford Whalers in 1994 and moved the NHL franchise to Raleigh, N.C. in 1997. The Hurricanes became Stanley Cup champions in 2005-06.

"We didn't win the Memorial Cup," Karmanos said. "Instead, we settled for the Stanley Cup."

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