Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 04
The Stanley Cup Journal

The song blasting as the home team skated out to start Game 7 said it — it was the Scorpions' "Rock You Like A Hurricane," and Carolina did exactly that.

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'WHATEVER IT TAKES' stated the special poster hung in the dressing room of the Hurricanes, and the team took the motto to heart through the entire playoffs. The poster had been signed and sent from Duke Children's Hospital and Health Center. Touchingly, it added, 'YOU INSPIRE US'. (Phil Pritchard/HHOF)
Trying to avoid clichés is difficult when the entire season comes down to one final contest between two worthy opponents. Do or die. There's no tomorrow. Leave it all on the ice. No regrets.

There is no scenario more exciting than having the Stanley Cup decided in a seventh game. The Stanley Cup final expanded to a best-of-seven series in 1939. Since then, the Stanley Cup has been awarded after a seventh and deciding game on fourteen occasions. In 1942 and 1945, it was the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Red Wings won the championship seventh game in 1950, 1954, and 1955. Toronto's Cup wins in 1964 and 1965 took a seventh game to clinch. Montreal's win in 1971 happened after a Game 7, as did the Oilers' victory in 1987. The Rangers, including Craig MacTavish, won the Cup in seven games. So did the Colorado Avalanche in 2001. That was the situation when the New Jersey Devils won in 2003. It was the case in 2004, too, when the Tampa Bay Lightning laid claim to hockey's most cherished prize. And sure enough, for a third consecutive championship, the Stanley Cup was awarded in a tremendously exciting Game 7.

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The Carolina Hurricanes came into this world on October 12, 1972 as the New England Whalers of the newly-formed World Hockey Association. Seven years later, with the WHA ceasing operation, the Hartford Whalers joined the National Hockey League, ironically, alongside the Edmonton Oilers. But the Hartford Whalers only endured until the first of October, 1997. On that date, they skated out for their first game as the Carolina Hurricanes.

In 2002, the Hurricanes took the Red Wings to five games in the Stanley Cup final, only to lose 3-1 to Detroit, with former alumnus Brendan Shanahan scoring the winning goal to break the collective hearts of the Hurricanes. They learned their lesson well. It was a different result in June 2006.

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The dreams once envisioned as children were realized Monday, June 19, 2006 as the Carolina Hurricanes captured the Stanley Cup for the first time in the franchise's history. Captain Rod Brind'Amour led his charges both on and off the ice and was rewarded with hockey's ultimate prize. (Craig Campbell/HHOF)
The Stanley Cup had traveled from Carolina in Game 5 on Wednesday, June 14, to Edmonton for Game 6 on Saturday, June 17 and then took the red-eye out of the Alberta capital, arriving in Carolina at six o'clock early Sunday, June 18.

Mid-day on gameday, Monday, June 19, Phil Pritchard and Craig Campbell, the two representatives from the Hockey Hall of Fame, met with NHL officials to go over protocol in regards to the Stanley Cup presentation that would be occurring that evening. Through the afternoon, both the Conn Smythe Trophy for the playoff's most valuable performer and the Stanley Cup were polished to a brilliant sheen, ready for the inevitable presentations that would be taking place that evening.

Carolina had home-ice advantage on June 19 for Game 7 of the finale to the sensational 2005-06 season. And like the song implied, Carolina came flying out of the chute and rocked Edmonton like a hurricane. Captain Rod Brind'Amour won the opening faceoff and set the tone for the contest.

The Stanley Cup arrived by limousine at Raleigh, North Carolina's RBC Center at 8:10, just after the opening faceoff. In the company of two motorcycle police officers, Pritchard and Campbell snuck the Stanley Cup into the arena so as not to distract either team and took it to the dressing room of the Hurricanes' mascot, Stormy, near the Zamboni entrance, where it stayed until near the end of the third period.

Hard hits and tight checking held the game scoreless until 1:26 of the first when persistence down low paid off. An Aaron Ward slapshot from the top of the faceoff circle found its way through a maze of players and into the back of the net for a 1-0 Carolina lead. It seemed only fitting that Ward would break the silence — he had tasted champagne from the Stanley Cup on two previous occasions, with the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998, and he clearly wanted that sensation again.

A scrum seconds from the conclusion of the First Period looked like it would result in either a goal or a penalty shot for Carolina, but after consultation, the verdict was a minor to Moreau for highsticking on a delayed penalty call.

The Second Period was initiated with a pair of Godzilla-like saves from Cam Ward in the Hurricanes' net. Then, with the Oilers' Spacek whistled for holding at 4:10, the Hurricanes capitalized. Frantisek Kaberle blasted a shot from the faceoff circle that deflected off Edmonton's workhorse Jason Smith past a stunned Markkanen. 2-0 Carolina, and the Hurricanes could now taste that victory. They fended off a 5-on-3 Edmonton powerplay and dominated, not allowing the Oilers to secure any room on the ice.

Canes' Coach Peter Laviolette, here with wife Kristen, experienced the elation of at last being called a Stanley Cup champion.
(Craig Campbell/HHOF)
Edmonton wasn't about to let themselves get pinned to the mat, and opened the third with a goal that saw Fernando Pisani shovel the puck past Ward after a third rebound. With the score 2-1 for Carolina, the Oilers grew more desperate and the Hurricanes ensured they remained frustrated.

With ten minutes remaining in the Third Period, the Stanley Cup was taken out of its case and polished one final time. Once it was preened and ready, the Conn Smythe Trophy was readied as well.

Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish pulled his netminder with just over ninety seconds to play, but Carolina's Justin Williams pounced on the puck and scored an empty net goal that punctuated what was already evident by that point. The North Carolina faithful had cheered themselves hoarse, and the cheering reached a crescendo that even Hockey Hall of Fame Cup Keeper Phil Pritchard hadn't yet experienced during this year's raucous final. The seconds ticked down and as the buzzer sounded, the Hurricanes raced to Cam Ward in his crease, who had already tossed his stick and gloves into the air in celebration.

The din of the crowd was overwhelming. It was the first Stanley Cup in franchise history, and the Carolina fans showed their appreciation in a most suitable yet enthusiastic fashion.

On cue, the Cup Keepers carried the Conn Smythe Trophy from behind the goal, along the red carpet to centre ice, where NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was already standing. When Mr. Bettman announced the winner as Cam Ward, the first rookie goaltender since Patrick Roy won with the Canadiens in 1986, Ward was embracing his fiancée, oblivious to the presentation. David Keon Jr. from the NHL's Toronto office had to nudge Ward and let him know that his attendance was required at centre ice by Gary Bettman. "This (winning the Stanley Cup) is a dream come true," stated the 22-year-old goaltender. "The Conn Smythe is irrelevant. You could give it to anyone on this team. The real trophy that matters is the Stanley Cup."

By this time, mothers, fathers, wives, children and partners had congregated on the ice to share in the moment with the players. As Pritchard was walking off the ice surface to get the Stanley Cup, he glanced over to see Ray Whitney hugging his wife, tears of joy running down the cheeks of both. The Cup was waiting in the corridor, out of view of the players, but as Phil Pritchard and Craig Campbell carried the Cup onto the ice surface, the crowd got even louder. "What an incredible end to an amazing season," announced NHL Commissioner Bettman. "Rod Brind'Amour, I'm proud to present this to you!"

Brind'Amour, having just completed his seventeenth NHL season, had never won Lord Stanley's prize. Rod joined the Hurricanes in January 2001 and his dogged determination set the precedent for the remainder of the team. "This team doesn't give up," he later explained. "Desire. We wanted it. There were too many guys that sacrificed their whole careers and weren't going to be denied."

Brind'Amour then handed the Stanley Cup to players in terms of tenure on the team. Glen Wesley, who joined the team in 1994-95 when they were the Whalers, just completed his eighteenth NHL season. "This is the best feeling I've ever had," he grinned. "I still can't believe it. It honestly feels like a dream to me. Everybody stepped up. Awesome effort!"

Bret Hedican was next. "It takes every ounce of effort; every ounce of courage to win this thing." Hedican knows — he had been to the finals with both Vancouver and Carolina and had left empty-handed both times.

Following an outstanding season and playoff series that had more drama than an episode of CSI, the Carolina Hurricanes experienced the first blushes of their reign as the 2006 Stanley Cup champions!
(Phil Pritchard/HHOF)
"It's indescribable," blurted Kevyn Adams. "I'm just so proud of our team. Now I get my name on it (the Stanley Cup). I'm just so proud!"

The team had the traditional on-ice photograph celebrating around the Stanley Cup. Then Cory Stillman picked up the Cup and took it down to one end for family photos. Family played an integral role in Carolina's playoff run, and they were all there to enjoy the spotlight with the players. Stillman described his favourite playoff moment as "tonight, when the buzzer went!" Cory is the only player this spring who was part of the last Stanley Cup presentation, which he was as part of the Tampa Bay Lightning's victory in 2004.

Mike Commodore came close. In 2004, he was a member of the Calgary Flames, who lost to the Lightning. "I can't believe this just happened," he said with great incredulity. "We worked hard all year. We deserved this!"

Aaron Ward, who opened the scoring, explained how the championship took place. "We have a lot of character in that locker room. It's all about character."

Doug Weight, who missed Games 6 and 7 with a shoulder injury, surprised his teammates by appearing on the ice clad in full gear. And although he found it difficult to hoist the trophy over his head, with pain and effort, he accomplished the feat. "It's awful tough to go back there and play against guys I know and love, from the training staff up through the organization," he explained. Weight spent nine seasons with the Oilers, was their leading scorer in seven of them, and wore the captain's 'C' as well. "It is a wonderful place to play. They had a wonderful; year and they can keep their heads up and be proud."

Ray Whitney also had melancholy feelings accompanying the victory. As a 15-year-old, in 1987, he was a stickboy for the Edmonton Oilers. After the team won its fourth Stanley Cup in 1988, Marty McSorley was standing at the sink and called Whitney over. "He was shaving off his beard, and I was walking by and he took his scissors and cut my hair off at the back," Whitney chuckled in a conversation with the Vancouver Sun. "Just grabbed a handful and…snip! Gone. That was apparently my playoff growth, my mullet."

Ray Whitney has always had a soft spot for the Oilers and the city because of his teenaged affiliation with the team, as well as the fact his father was the team's practice goaltender. "If it wasn't going to be me, I wish it could have been the Edmonton Oilers," he admitted. But he will take great delight in seeing his name engraved on the same trophy as his hockey idols. "That would probably be the coolest part of it all. Just spin it around and see those '87 and '88 names and say I was the little rat that got to be in the room."

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There was no mistaking Mike Commodore as he posed in the dressing room with the Stanley Cup. The popular defenseman, his playoff tresses and beard intact and wearing his trademark bathrobe, spent a moment reveling in the special moment.
(Phil Pritchard/HHOF)
Young star Eric Staal, who dazzled fans (and opponents) with his on-ice moves, was dazzled and clearly moved by all that was going on around him. "It's an unbelievable feeling," he said. "For me to get this opportunity at a young age is unbelievable! It took a little longer than we hoped, but we got it done."

Staal and Justin Williams looked around and realized they were the last two players on the ice. Together, they carried the Stanley Cup into the Hurricanes' dressing room where their teammates had started the champagne sprays, sipping the elixir of champions and continued the warm, random embraces.

The team eventually showered and dressed, holding on to the moment as long as possible. They then joined their families in a team party with the Stanley Cup in the RBC Center's Arena Club, a restaurant in their triumphant home arena.

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Join the Stanley Cup Journal again Friday when we get a bird's-eye view of the Hurricanes' victory parade. And in addition, although there is no more room for engraving on the Stanley Cup, we'll explain how the Carolina Hurricanes will have their team and names immortalized.

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Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and On-Line Features at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
His book, 'LORD STANLEY-THE MAN BEHIND THE CUP,' co-written with John Jason Wilson,
will be published in October 2006 by Fenn Publishing.
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