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Guy Behind the Guy: All the Right Reasons

Tuesday, 01.11.2011 / 9:17 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Mike Sundheim
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Guy Behind the Guy: All the Right Reasons
Mike Sundheim
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As a sports fan, it’s easy to become jaded when it comes to individual awards and achievements. During Week 17 of the NFL season, it seemed like there was more talk about contract clauses than about wins and losses. We were told to watch to see whether Player A would get 73 yards to hit his yardage incentive, of if Player B could make five more catches so his last check of the season included that extra bonus. It’s also sometimes hard to swallow certain athletes’ reactions to All-Star selections, when guys complain that they’d rather have the time off to rest than be honored in a league event designed to showcase a sport’s brightest stars.

When it comes to Cam Ward, that won’t be a problem. As far as I know, there is no monetary incentive in Cam’s contract for making the All-Star Game. And he most certainly won’t complain that he’d rather take a trip to the Caribbean than represent his team during the National Hockey League’s big weekend in Raleigh. From the first day of training camp this season, it was clear in talking to Cam, watching him prepare and watching him play that he had his eye on the 58th NHL All-Star Game. Not for money. But for himself, his family and his fans.

It’s been another big year for Cam, who is still only 26 years old. He was already a Stanley Cup Champion. A Conn Smythe winner. A World Champion. This year he became a father. And he wanted to be an All-Star.

It made for a long day Monday. We had some pretty solid hints that Cam had achieved his goal. But we spent the day waiting for the final, official word, and the green light for Jim Rutherford to give Cam the good news. It came late in the day, and in speaking to him moments later, it was clear how meaningful All-Star Weekend will be for the Canes netminder. He desperately wanted to be on the ice at the RBC Center on January 30, wearing an All-Star sweater in front of his home crowd – his Caniacs. And now he will be.

And he deserves to be. Cam currently ranks second in the NHL in saves (1025), fourth in games played (34), fourth in minutes (1954) and seventh in the NHL in save percentage. He has 17 of the Canes’ 20 victories. He has suffered just four regulation losses in his last 19 games, with a 2.06 goals-against average and a .949 save percentage during that span. He has made more than 40 saves five times this season, and won in four of those five games. He is one of the main two pillars upon which the Hurricanes are built, the man with the most wins in franchise history both in the regular season and the playoffs. And, yeah, he’s the one who was named first star in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on June 19, 2006, and got to raise a Conn Smythe Trophy and a Stanley Cup at the conclusion of that one.

For his part, the other big Canes cornerstone is thrilled to be heading to the All-Star Game in his “home city” too. For Eric Staal, it will be his fourth consecutive All-Star Game, something no other player in franchise history has accomplished. As my PR partner-in-crime Kyle Hanlin pointed out last week, Eric has been involved in a mid-season NHL “event” every season since his rookie year – whether it was a YoungStars Game, an All-Star Game or an Olympics. And from the day Raleigh was awarded the 2011 All-Star Game, Eric has spoken seemingly every day about the thrill of playing in an All-Star Game in front of his own fans.

But on Monday, even he seemed more interested in hearing about his teammate. Maybe it was because it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Eric would be there again. Maybe it was because only Eric truly understands Cam’s position, as the other player with the weight of a team on his shoulders night-in-and-night-out. Or maybe he just wanted to hear good news about his friend.

So when we talked Monday about potential plans for the announcement, Eric first asked if I had heard anything about Cam. And in response to a congratulatory text message after both players had finally heard the official word from Mr. Rutherford, Eric’s reply was simply: “Thanks. Glad Cam will be there too. Well deserved.”

All-Star Weekend is bound to be special for any of us connected with the organization, from the players to the front office to the fans. It’s our chance to show off our building, our city and our tremendous supporters. And we now know that we also get to show off our two cornerstone players, and the 18-year-old kid quickly working his way into that elite group. What a scene it will be at the RBC Center, when those names are read over the loudspeakers.

And how nice it is to know that moment is what it’s all about for the Hurricanes All-Stars being introduced. It’s for themselves, for their families and for their fans.




1 WSH 50 37 9 4 163 112 78
2 FLA 51 31 15 5 141 112 67
3 NYR 52 29 18 5 148 134 63
4 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
5 BOS 51 27 18 6 149 136 60
6 DET 52 26 18 8 130 131 60
7 NJD 53 26 20 7 119 120 59
8 NYI 50 26 18 6 135 126 58
9 PIT 50 25 18 7 129 128 57
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 50 23 18 9 119 130 55
12 MTL 53 25 24 4 142 142 54
13 OTT 52 23 23 6 142 164 52
14 TOR 50 19 22 9 116 134 47
15 BUF 52 21 26 5 119 137 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47


J. Faulk 53 15 19 -13 34
V. Rask 51 12 19 1 31
K. Versteeg 52 10 21 1 31
J. Skinner 53 18 12 -3 30
J. Staal 53 12 18 7 30
E. Staal 53 9 21 0 30
E. Lindholm 53 8 16 -8 24
A. Nestrasil 46 7 12 -1 19
J. Nordstrom 42 5 9 2 14
R. Hainsey 53 3 11 -12 14
C. Ward 15 11 5 .905 2.43
E. Lack 9 10 3 .901 2.74
Alumni Game