The 2010’s were... complicated for the Carolina Hurricanes.
By and large, the decade was an unmitigated disaster with very few bright spots. The team was run into the ground by bad decisions at seemingly every level of operation and suffered dramatically on and off the ice.
But that’s not what we’re here to talk about today.
Instead, we’re going to go through the best moments from the Hurricanes during the 2010’s. You’ll see a pattern below - most of the highlights come from the latter half of the decade. More specifically, they come from 2018 and 2019.
There were a few other moments to remember prior to 2018, though, and we’ll go through those few examples and much more.
Believe it or not, there were more than ten moments from the decade, so here are the ones that just missed the cut for me.
The Jorge Alves Game (December 31, 2016)
On a game day in Tampa Bay on New Year’s Eve, 2016, the Hurricanes ran into a goalie problem.
With Cam Ward set to be the scheduled starter for the Canes, Eddie Lack was the anticipated back-up, but after a seemingly routine morning skate, Lack fell ill during the afternoon and was unavailable for puck drop. It was too late for the Canes to make a call-up, so instead something cool happened.
Jorge Alves, a long-time member of Carolina’s equipment staff and regular practice goalie, signed a one-day amateur tryout contract to back up Ward. Alves was a goalie in the minor leagues north of a decade earlier, and he had since been a beloved member of the organization, so when he entered the game late in the third period, it was an emotional moment that he and we will never forget.
Head Pats (May 3, 2019)
The drama from the 2019 postseason was palpable, but one of the most memorable moments came in game four between the Canes and New York Islanders.
Isles forward Brock Nelson thought it’d be a good idea to tap Curtis McElhinney on the head after his team scored a goal. Instead of going after instant retribution, Dougie Hamilton saved his vengeance for after the Canes capped off their sweep.
In the handshake line, one of the classiest scenes in all of pro sports where players from opposing teams show their respect for one another, Hamilton gave Nelson a tap on the head.
He who pats last pats best. Never change, Dougie.
Justin Williams Named Captain (September 13, 2018)
It should’ve happened right away, but due to some egregious management of power and people, it happened a year late. In the end, though, the right call was made and Justin Williams was finally named captain by Rod Brind’Amour ahead of the 2018-19 season.
His leadership was at the center of what was an unbelievable season that put hockey in North Carolina back on the national map.
Perhaps an encore performance is in order for Williams in 2020.
#10. Trading for Jordan Staal (June 22, 2012)
On the draft floor in Pittsburgh, former Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford made one of the biggest splashes in franchise history.
He traded Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin, and the eighth-overall draft pick in 2012 to the Penguins for center Jordan Staal and immediately signed Staal to a ten-year, $60 million contract extension.
Staal is the lone remaining player from that Canes team, and he’s done a lot of growing since then. He grew up as a member of the Hurricanes, going from a 23-year-old young stud to a 31-year-old captain of a playoff-projected NHL team.
Staal’s offensive impact always disappointed some people, but during his time as a Hurricane, he has been one of the most elite defensive forwards in hockey. He leads through his actions, his consistency, and his drive to win.
In the biggest moments last season, Jordan showed up in incredible fashion. After recovering from an awful bout with concussion symptoms, he was the engine of an unbelievable playoff run. He had 17 points in 21 games down the stretch of the regular season and 10 points in 15 playoff games.
At the heart of the Hurricanes is Jordan Staal. He stuck with this team through the hardest days, including when his brother was traded away. He didn’t ask for that. His character has been on full display every day over the last seven-plus years.
#9. The Surge (October 7, 2018)
After an 8-5 win over the New York Rangers at PNC Arena, the Hurricanes did something that confused everyone.
They did their first Storm Surge.
Led by Williams and the players on the team who all wanted to connect to the fanbase, the Storm Surge started as a simple celebration, but as the season wore on, it got more and more elaborate and wonderfully ridiculous. That gave the team attention, notoriety, fans, and haters. It played a real role in putting the Canes back in the American sports conscience.
#8. Making Svech Happen (April 28, 2018/October 29, 2019)
I’m cheating with this one and including two things.
My list, my rules.
On April 28, 2018, a turtleneck-clad interim general manager Don Waddell attended the NHL Draft Lottery. With a 9.8% chance of getting into the top-three, the Hurricanes beat the odds and jumped all the way up to number two.
A couple months of trade rumors and draft takes later, the obvious decision was made when the Hurricanes selected Andrei Svechnikov. It was a no-brainer, and it gave Carolina a game-changing franchise player.
As an 18-year-old rookie Svechnikov scored 20 goals. This season, as a 19-year-old, he’s taken his game to the stratosphere. He has 17 goals and 37 points in 38 games played, and he provided us with the highlight of the early season.
He became the first player in league history to score a lacrosse goal. A few weeks later, he did it again.
He’s a special player and young man who the Hurricanes are very fortunate to have, a game-breaking cornerstone for the future and the present.
#7. Drafting Sebastian Aho (June 27, 2015)
With the fifth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, the Hurricanes selected... their second best player from the draft.
Their best selection came in relatively unknown Finnish forward Sebastian Aho.
You know the rest of this story.
Aho’s point totals in the NHL, starting in 2016-17 as a 19-year-old rookie, have grown substantially each season. From 49 to 65 to 83. Now signed for five seasons at a $8.454 million AAV, the 22-year-old center is on pace for a career-high 46 goals. In tandem with Teuvo Teravainen, Aho has been the star player that the Canes needed for years but never could attain.
Now with Svechnikov in the fray and a litany of young players on the way, the Canes are set up for massive success with Aho serving as the centerpiece.
#6. Rod Brind’Amour Hired as Head Coach (May 8, 2018)
In one of the first big decisions of Tom Dundon’s tenure as majority owner of the Hurricanes, Rod Brind’Amour was hired as head coach.
One of the franchise’s most influential figures, Brind’Amour’s hiring was met with a mixture of optimism and disappointment. The optimism stemmed from his past, the disappointment stemmed from their fear of hiring another first-time head coach, especially one that had been on the coaching staff of past failures at the position.
A year and a half later, Brind’Amour has been the absolute right man for the job. After all that’s happened, it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone else manning the bench of this team and having anything that resembles the success that he has had.
The fans love him. The players respect him. And most importantly, he treats people the right way and has created an environment that players want to be a part of.
#5 All-Star Game (January 30, 2011)
In 2011, the NHL’s All-Star Weekend came to Raleigh, North Carolina.
It was a special weekend that further legitimized Carolina in the eyes of hockey fans. Adding to the importance of the event was the inclusion of Eric Staal as one of the team captains, Cam Ward’s first All-Star nod, and rookie Jeff Skinner becoming the youngest All-Star in league history.
For one weekend, Raleigh was the center of the hockey world. It won over many people who questioned whether or not that location would be worthy of having such an event. Well, their questions were answered - Raleigh was, and is, worthy.
#4 Bryan Bickell’s Final Shot (April 9, 2017)
On November 11, 2016, recently acquired forward Bryan Bickell, who had skated in seven games for the Hurricanes, made an announcement that shook the hockey community.
He had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). The disease forced the three-time Stanley Cup champion out of the lineup for all but the final four games of the 2016-17 season.
Carolina’s season finale came in Philadelphia, an otherwise unremarkable 3-3 game that went to shootout. But Bickell took the Canes’ first shot and created a memory that no one involved will ever forget.
On the final shot of Bickell’s hockey career, he went post and in. The Hurricanes won the shootout and the game. It was a moment that reminded all of us that hockey doesn’t really matter. Life is bigger than hockey. Bryan Bickell and his fight are bigger than hockey.
Bryan and his wife Amanda are the founders of the Bryan and Amanda Bickell Foundation which, among many things, helps provide trained service dogs for people battling MS.
#3. Tom Dundon Becomes Majority Owner (January 11, 2018)
In the early days of 2018, there was a monumental shift for a Hurricanes organization that had missed the NHL playoffs for going-on-nine straight seasons.
Peter Karmanos Jr. sold his majority stake in the club to Dallas billionaire Tom Dundon.
The months immediately following the sale were... rough for the Hurricanes, but almost two years removed from the sale, we see that Dundon’s new vision, willingness to make unpopular decisions for the betterment of the team, and his very deep pockets have flipped the script for the franchise.
#2. Down Goes the Champ (April 24, 2019)
Game seven - the two best words in sports.
In their first playoff series since 2009, the Hurricanes had the challenge of facing the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.
With the home team winning each of the first six games of the series, smart money was on Washington to close things out at Capital One Arena.
Or maybe not.
After storming back from down 3-1 in regulation, the Hurricanes very nearly saw their season end. With 2:20 left in the third period, a puck snuck through Petr Mrazek and was on track to slide beyond the goal line. That’s when Brock McGinn’s first heroic play was made.
That play ultimately forced overtime, where the Hurricanes dominated the Capitals but couldn’t solve Braden Holtby. Mrazek held down the fort for the Canes, making huge saves and giving his team a chance to win.
Then, the first overtime period ended.
Double overtime, game seven - the four best words in sports.
Over halfway through the second extra frame, McGinn made his second heroic play: he scored the goal of his life.
Mr. Game Seven threw the puck on net, McGinn tipped it home, and the Hurricanes upset the Capitals.
You always want to close out a series on home ice, but for the Canes, doing it in front of an absolutely stunned crowd in D.C. was an excellent consolation. The series legitimized the rivalry between the two teams, regardless of how many Capitals fans try to deny it.
#1. “We’re In!” (April 4, 2019)
The top two moments can be interchanged, but for me, Carolina’s playoff-clinching win over the New Jersey Devils ranks ahead of their win in Washington, because without their win on April 4, they might not have had a chance to win on April 24. And the emotions and circumstances that surrounded their win in game 81 of the season were pretty amazing.
With a win over the Devils and a Montreal Canadiens’ regulation loss to the Capitals, the Hurricanes would clinch their first playoff appearance in nine seasons. Both games were going on at the same time. Late in the third period, the Canes were up by one goal, the Habs were down by one goal. Just seconds before Carolina closed out the win, Montreal fell to Washington.
The moment was perfect. No one on the Carolina bench knew what was about to happen. When time expired, the news was broken to everyone via the scoreboard - the Hurricanes were playoff bound, and the roof blew off the arena.
Pandemonium. A long, shameful chapter of hockey in North Carolina was finally over. The longest playoff drought in the NHL ended. Exactly ten years to the day of the last time they clinched a playoff berth, in front of a sold out crowd, the Hurricanes lined up and bowed to the faithful fanbase that stuck around through all the bad days and made it back to the good ones.
It was an emotional win that symbolized the fruition of promises made by people who deeply cared about the well-being of the franchise. They were, to quote their captain, done losing.
The way I see it, that was the best moment of the 2010’s. And Mrazek’s elation in his interview with Mike Maniscalco was the perfect way to cap it off.