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Guy Behind the Guy: Solid Foundation

Wednesday, 09.30.2009 / 2:11 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Mike Sundheim
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Guy Behind the Guy: Solid Foundation
There was an athlete at today’s news conference who wasn’t there to sign a long-term contract. That doesn’t mean that she wasn’t cheering the day’s big news. For Special Olympics athlete Judy Nutter, sitting in the fourth row of media seating at the event, there was plenty to smile about.

Mike Sundheim
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These days you see Eric Staal and Cam Ward on just about everything that comes out of this building, from ticket stock to marketing pieces. For the second consecutive year, they are on the front and back covers of the team’s media guide. There is obviously a method behind those choices. As of today, the center and goaltender, drafted in the first round in consecutive years by the Hurricanes, are officially signed with the team through the 2015-16 season. By that time, I would expect that our franchise record books will have the names Ward and Staal near or at the top of almost every major category.

While having two cornerstone players wrapped up for that long bodes well for the Hurricanes on the ice, seeing Judy at today’s proceedings reminded me just how proud we can be to have those two men representing this organization.

I’ve never seen Eric Staal turn down a child’s autograph request. Eric and his wife, Tanya, last year hosted 40 non-profit children’s organizations in an all-inclusive luxury suite at the RBC Center, providing each kid in attendance with gifts and a meet-and-greet after the game. This summer, Eric donated 20 full sets of hockey equipment to the Capital City Crew, helping to establish the first NHL Diversity team in the South along with the Kids ‘N Community Foundation and the NHLPA’s Goals and Dreams Foundation.

Cam Ward started Cam’s Champs in 2006, wanting to reconnect locally with an organization he was involved with in Canada during his junior hockey days. Along with his wife, Cody, he committed to donate time and money to Special Olympics North Carolina. Four seasons later, Cam’s Champs continues to be the Wards’ personal effort, from monetary donations to hosting Special Olympics athletes at home games and meeting with them afterwards. Between Cam’s own donations and fan contributions, Cam’s Champs has raised more than $30,000 for SONC over the last three seasons.

So for Judy Nutter, who congratulated Cam after the news conference, today was a good day. She was there to see a hero, though for her it wasn’t all about his highlight reel saves or shutouts. Cam’s dedication to this community, like Eric’s, goes far beyond what he does for a living. Our two stars’ personal commitments to this area – from how they speak about North Carolina as their home to their charitable efforts – make them proud representatives for the Carolina Hurricanes and the Triangle.

And that’s something we can all feel good about.

Media Alerts: Obviously, there will be some Cam Ward coverage tonight. One I did want to highlight is his interview with The Insiders, Mike Maniscalco and Mark Thomas, after today’s presser. That interview is set to air on 99.9 The Fan today at 3:25. The Insiders also caught up with Jim Rutherford, and that will air at 4:25.

Also, after a one-day delay, Tim Conboy will join Bob and the Showgram on G105 on Thursday morning around 7:30 a.m. As I mentioned yesterday, it should be interesting, with the Showgram folks still talking about playing a game called "Wheel-Of Getting Hit With Hockey Pucks from a NHL Player."

Debra Morgan's sit-down interview with Scott and Julie Walker will air Thursday night on the 10 p.m. news on Fox-50 and the 11 p.m. news on WRAL-5.

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