Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A leader by example

Rod Brind'Amour announced his retirement from the NHL on Wednesday, ending a career that spanned a remarkable 21 NHL seasons.

The native of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada played his collegiate hockey in the CCHA, as a member of the Michigan State Spartans, for just 1 season, in 1988-89. At the end of that college season, Brind'Amour appeared in 5 playoff games for the St. Louis Blues.

He would spend 3 seasons in St. Louis, before moving to the Philadelphia Flyers, where his legacy would begin to grow. He would top 100 points in a season twice in his career, both with Philly, but became a Carolina Hurricane in the trade that sent Keith Primeau to the Flyers in 2000. Primeau was unhappy in Carolina, and according to Brind'Amour, Carolina wasn't exactly on his mind upon his arrival. Yet, as time wore on, and Brind'Amour became more entrenched in the community, and the organization, leaving to go elsewhere simply wasn't going to happen.

In the end, Brind'Amour will best be remembered as the guy that got to hoist the Stanley Cup first in 2006, a vision that every Hurricanes fans has burned into their memories. He will also be remembered as the Frank Selke Award winner in back-to-back seasons while wearing Hurricanes colors.

Most of all, Brind'Amour will (and should be) remembered for being the unquestioned leader of an organization that was looking to make its mark. All due respect to Ron Francis and his incredible career, Brind'Amour is the face that helped NHL hockey take a firm hold in the Carolinas. He never complained. He never battled management over contracts. He never showed up to camp out of shape.

He showed younger players the ropes. He set the standard for conditioning in the dressing room, basically being the benchmark for the rest of the team. He won face-offs. He played both ends of the ice.

Most of all, he recognized when his time was coming to an end. He graciously relinquished the captain's "C" to Eric Staal, accepting the alternate's "A" for his sweater, knowing that you can only outskate Father Time for so long. He leaves the game in better shape, having given 21 years of his life to it.

I was lucky enough to see Brind'Amour wear all 3 sweaters in his NHL career, and can honestly say, I didn't like him as a player when he played against my team. I loved and admired his ability and work ethic, however, every single time he hit the ice.

Congrats on a Hall of Fame career, Brindo. You'll be hearing from Toronto sooner than you think.

Mike Solarte


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