It was an offseason of change for the Carolina Hurricanes, as the team kicked off training camp last week with a slew of new faces on the ice.
One of those newcomers is defenseman Ethan Bear, acquired from the Edmonton Oilers in a trade for Warren Foegele as a piece to quell the loss of Dougie Hamilton. The 24-year-old Bear has two and a half years of NHL experience under his belt, and played 71 games in 2019-20 en route to a 10th-place finish in Calder voting.
Bear got his first action with the Canes on the ice as training camp kicked off, skating in a partnership with Jaccob Slavin from the get go. For Bear, the trade to Carolina was something he called a “pleasant surprise”, and he’s happy to get things going with the Canes.
“I’m very happy with where I’m at,” Bear said. “It’s really good. I’m playing with Slavin. It’s good. I’m excited.”
Bear is joining a defensive corps that lost one of its best players in Hamilton, and while he’s no replacement for that production, he’s still been very good in his NHL career. He had 21 points during his 2019-20 campaign, playing nearly 22 minutes per game that season.
He’s also still very young. At just 24, Bear is the youngest of the six blue liners like to make the Canes’ roster, and getting a player with as much NHL experience as Bear has at his age is something that brings a lot of promise to the team.
“It’s a young player who we’re hoping is just tapping into what he’s going to be,” Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour told Canes Country. “I think any time you can get an opportunity to bring in a young player that can be in a top-four role in a defensive group, that’s the attraction, for sure. That’s where we see him. He can skate. I think there’s a whole bunch more to his game still to come.”
The ceiling is high for Bear, and unlocking that potential starts with training camp. The good news for Bear and the Canes is that he is skating with one of the best defensemen in the league in Slavin, something that makes any player more comfortable and free to play their game on the ice.
“He’s dependable and reliable,” Bear said. “For me, it just allows me to do my job and play my game. It doesn’t get any easier than that.”
On the other side of that is Slavin, who is seeing the talent and potential in Bear right away. Slavin says Bear is fitting in well with the team and is a great guy off the ice, and he also had great things to say about the stocky defenseman on the ice.
“It’s been good so far,” Slavin said. “I’m excited to have him here. On the ice he’s a smooth skater. Even just in the scrimmages as a team we had he had good offensive ability, good puck-moving ability. I’m super excited for what that could be, just have to get the chemistry going.”
The move from Edmonton to Raleigh is quite the change of culture, but Bear said he loves his new city and has no complaints there. Another player on the Canes that has made that transition easier for Bear is Jordan Martinook, who played junior hockey in the Edmonton area and immediately got linked up with Bear when the trade went through.
“I love Bear,” Martinook said. “When he got traded, he texted me that day and was like ‘Hey, can I come work out with you?’ We worked out together. I skated with him quite a bit in the summer. He’s another one of those guys that’s just a joy to have in the room. He’s always smiling. I think he’s happy to have a fresh start, too.”
For Bear, that established relationship with Martinook has been a helpful tool in adjusting to life with his new team.
“He’s been huge,” Bear said. “Every time I have a question I’ll just reach out to Marty. It’s good.”
For any player that comes to the Carolina Hurricanes, there’s a certain excitement that comes with the opportunity to play for a coach like Brind’Amour. Time and time again players talk about the way Brind’Amour handles himself in the locker room, and it’s no different for Bear.
The Jack Adams-winning head coach has established a winning culture in Raleigh, a city that he’s spent a lot of his adult life in, and that’s something that stands out to a newcomer like Bear.
“It’s his passion,” Bear said. “You can tell right from the first meeting yesterday how much he wants to win. He loves the Hurricanes. He loves Carolina. Honestly as a player, it just makes you want to win that much more and work harder and compete and win.”
That hard-work mentality is something that has become ingrained in the culture of the Carolina Hurricanes, another thing that always seems to stand out to new players on the team.
Bear, who said he’s excited for a fresh start and a new opportunity, has no concerns about fitting in with that well-established culture in the locker room.
“I think I fit in great,” Bear said. “I played in junior and we won with not the best team but culture. I know how important that is. I think I’m a good person. I work hard. I’m honest. I’m just trying to contribute every way that I can.”