The Hurricanes will open their second-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday at PNC Arena at 5 p.m., and they’ll do so with over 16,000 fans in the building, according to President and General Manager Don Waddell.
Waddell spoke to the media via Zoom Friday afternoon, here’s a full breakdown of everything he had to say:
On Rod Brind’Amour’s growth as a coach: There’s no doubt that anytime you have that experience over time you’re going to be a better coach. Going through that first playoff run the first year he was coaching and going to the Conference Finals and what we went through last year in the bubble, there’s no doubt I see things he does on the bench, the preparation being the key there, knowing when to take days off. There’s a lot of little things that all add up to making Rod a better coach. Again, anytime you go through this as a player or coach, the experience factor is going to be very positive for you and the organization.
On the challenges for getting to capacity increase milestones: It’s been a lot of time, a lot of work and a lot of financial burden. We’re fortunate enough that we have a partner in the Centennial Authority that’s assisted in that. This building as we all know, when it’s full, it’s one of the loudest buildings, I think, in the league. Even with our 12,000 crowds in the first round. Now I expect us to be doing some calibrations today. Probably will be a little over 16,000 when we’re done. As everybody knows, we filled the lower bowl which is one of the largest lower bowls in the league so this crowd is going to be excited for Game 1 come Sunday.
On Jordan Staal: Well Jordan plays a heavy game and Nashville was not an easy team to play against. They were very big and very physical, but when you have a guy like that as your leader who does it each and every shift, doesn’t take any shifts off, it’s easy for the other guys to look at that and react the same way. Jordan is maybe not the vocal guy that some captains are, but certainly how he approaches the game, prepares for each game, each shift is something that reflects upon the entire team.
On the possibility for reaching full capacity: We’re looking at every measurement right now. I think we’re going to get 16,000 or right around that number come Sunday. We’ve already started looking at measurements that can possibly increase it. We still have quite a number of seats blocked off by the NHL around the benches and penalty box. Just got back in here a few minutes ago and am going to meet with the box office to see how many seats we actually have blocked off. I think it’s around 500. That takes away from your capacity also, so it’s just going to be another expense if we want to take that next step, but forget about the expense. Certainly if we want to do it, we’re going to do it. As I said before, having this building full is very exciting not only for the fans, but more importantly also the players.
On the financial impact for increased capacities: Every dollar we take in is a dollar we didn’t have yesterday. This is big for us. I’ve always said that the playoffs work two ways. In a normal year, there isn’t as much money in the playoffs as people think because of your cost of league dues, travel and all that. Where you’re benefiting from the playoffs in particular and we saw this three years ago, is the season ticket bump we get the following year. People get excited about coming to PNC Arena and seeing the players. That’s the bigger impact you can have on a franchise is having a run to the playoffs and getting people excited about it and getting them as season ticket members the following year.
On Rod Brind’Amour and if he reminds him of anyone else: That’s hard to say. I’ve had some guys that coached for me that were ex players. I think everybody’s a little bit different. Rod, this is what he wants to do. He doesn’t want to have to worry about the things away from the ice, he only wants to focus on the players and preparing the players. So there’s a lot of guys that have done a great job coaching, but I think Rod’s style, the way the players react to him, is just incredible. We witnessed it last night in the post-game ceremony we had in the locker room. These players want to play for him, and I’ve seen it where it’s not always that way, all 20 guys carrying the same thought process. I know this team. They want to win for him. They don’t want to let him down.
On the series against Tampa Bay: As we know, they’re a great hockey team. They won the Stanley Cup last year, not by mistake. They’re a very good hockey team. The one thing, certainly, to watch from the first round is you’ve got to try and stay out of the penalty box. You know you’re going to take some penalties, but they’ve got to be good penalties, because I think they’re running somewhere around 40% on their power play, which is remarkable. The five guys that they put out there to run the power play is pretty darn good in the league, probably the best. So discipline and we’ve had great games with them this year. I think both teams skate very well. There’s going to be a good flow to the game. Obviously their goaltender is outstanding, one of the best in the league. For us, we’ve got to be ready to play. If we are, it’s going to be a hell of a series.
On Hurricanes fans raising money to buy season tickets for Emma Izzo and other children with special needs: It’s remarkable. We’ve witnessed it throughout the years I’ve been here. We’ve run across a couple hurricanes, and we’ve shipped truck loads of goods and it was all supported by our great fans. Nothing surprises me with these Caniacs. It’s remarkable how they really want to be part of the community. Obviously we’re a big part of it and we love to give back also. But the way our fans have stepped up for different causes and particularly this one, is very remarkable.
On Alex Nedeljkovic: He earned it. That’s the way I would look at it. He definitely earned it. I watched him in the American League playoffs a few years ago in Charlotte when they won the Calder Cup championship and I’ve always said it doesn’t matter what level you’re playing for, there’s going to be an immense amount of pressure. He had pressure in the American League and he performed very well. Saying that, what he did throughout the season was remarkable. It was great and he got the nod to go in in Game 1 and he’s carried the ball and here we are sitting here, ready to go Sunday for Game 1 of the second round.