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Guy Behind the Guy: Forever Captain

Wednesday, 01.20.2010 / 3:58 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Mike Sundheim
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Guy Behind the Guy: Forever Captain
Even when things aren’t going our way on the ice, there can be moments that make us proud to be a part of this organization. Today gave us a few more of those moments, mostly provided by the man who is clearly the franchise leader in the category of inspirational moments.

Mike Sundheim
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Clearly, this has not been an easy season for Rod Brind’Amour. But every step of the way, he has displayed character and class beyond which I can sometimes even comprehend. His preparation and work habits are well-documented, and have not dropped off one bit during this difficult year. He has remained a positive force in the dressing room, despite any changes in his on-ice role. And today, upon passing his captaincy to our next great leader, his words to his teammates and the media further showed everyone exactly what the man is made of.

“Me handing over the torch to him is really an honor to me because I know what type of person he is,” Brind’Amour said. “As the leader, especially the captain, of a hockey team, you have to be the guy on the ice, out there doing it. That’s what I told him. You lead that way first, and foremost.”

Brind’Amour would always label himself that way, as someone who leads by example. In many ways he is the ultimate leader by example, from his legendary work ethic to the way he always seems to shine when his team needed it most. His overtime goal in Game 4 of the 2001 Conference Quarterfinals against New Jersey in 2001 gave the building now known as the RBC Center its first real playoff life, planting the seed for future successes. He jump-started the 2002 run to the Cup Finals, scoring the first goal in Game 1 against New Jersey. And perhaps no individual effort in the team’s history was more important than his game-tying goal in Game 3 of the 2006 Conference Quarterfinals in Montreal, when he seemingly willed the puck past Cristobal Huet.

That goal came when the Hurricanes were most desperate, down two games to none in the series and 1-0 on the scoreboard. Without that goal, we would probably never have witnessed the pure joy Brind’Amour exuded as he lifted the Stanley Cup above his head in Raleigh almost two months later.

But having watched Rod in a leadership role for nearly a decade with this team, it wouldn’t be telling the whole story to label Brind’Amour as someone who solely leads by example. We’ve seen him greet young players walking into NHL dressing rooms for the first time. We’ve heard him give struggling teammates quiet words of encouragement. And though he certainly would never refer to himself as a rah-rah leader, his speech to his club prior to Game 7 against Buffalo in 2006 has been mentioned as an key moment by many of the men who ended up with their names engraved on the Stanley Cup that summer.

Today was another example of Brind’Amour’s ability to lead in other ways, as he used his own words to bridge any gap that could have existed between his captaincy, and that of Eric Staal.

“I really felt that whether it was now or in a little while, it needed to be done,” said Brind’Amour. “For his sake, too. We want to see him move forward in all capacities, not just playing but in a leadership role too.

“I’m just happy that it is him that I am giving it to. You guys see what kind of hockey player he is. But I know what kind of person he is. It’s not just a letter to him, it means something. We’ve talked about it, we had some good conversations yesterday about it. He takes the role real serious, and that’s something that makes me feel good.”

Our next captain taking lessons in leadership from Brind’Amour is something we can all feel good about. Respect. Work ethic. Determination. Class. Character. They are qualities of the ultimate captain, something Brind’Amour will remain for this franchise forever.

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