The Eastern Conference Final between the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers features a plethora of storylines, but the one that will perhaps dictate every other, is the battle between student and teacher, the mental chess battle that will take place between Rod Brind’Amour and Paul Maurice.
The relationship between the two head coaches stretches for over a decade. Maurice coached Brind’Amour for nine seasons, nearly half of his playing career, but more significantly, he was also the one who introduced Rod to coaching.
“The career ends and hockey starts and we had a need and so the perfect question was, what do you want to do?,” Maurice said about Brind’Amour’s path after retiring from playing. “He touched all parts of the game as a player. He was a power play guy, a penalty killer, he was a defensive forward and an offensive forward at the same time.
“The question with whether he was going to be a coach or a GM or whatever he was going to do in hockey, was is he interested? Because he was going to take the exact same approach that he did as a player to whatever he decided to do. I think you could tell he was a hockey-lifer that this was going to be, but he had earned the right to coach his kids and do that if that’s what he wanted to do.”
And Brind’Amour, in fact, wasn’t sure coaching was what he wanted to do. His career hadn’t ended on the best note, having been stripped of his captaincy and missing the playoffs in his final playing season.
“The one thing I remember – I actually was part of his staff too, so he brought me into coaching – and I just remember watching him do it being like, I’ll never be able to coach because I’m here and he’s way up here in the way he thinks,” Brind’Amour said. “I was like, if it has to be like that, then I’m probably not going to be able to do it.
But he took a chance on coaching, joining Maurice on the bench for the 2011-12 season and it started a spark inside of him.
“It caught fire and he loved it and the next thing, he put all his time and all his expertise into it,” Maurice said. “And he’s been great at it.
When asked when he knew Brind’Amour had what it took to be a coach, Maurice described a story that took place in 2002.
“It was an event actually. When Roddy was playing, he was a pretty quiet guy. Didn’t say a whole lot. We were in Calgary and he got an award for a charity for Cystic Fibrosis [Brind’Amour received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal on December 10, 2002 for his support for the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation]. It might have even been at our hotel. I went down and Rod accepted the award and gave a speech and he was outstanding. It was the most words I had ever heard him say in a row. To coach, you need to be able to communicate and it was a side of him that I had never really seen before.”
That communication is an aspect of coaching Brind’Amour made sure to take from Maurice.
“He always knew the right things to say and he just always seemed to… what I marveled about was that coaching, you’re saying the same things every night but you have to find different ways to say it. He was really good at that. And just from afar watching, I know he’s adapted to the game really well.”
That adaption is what makes or breaks a coach. It’s what you need to survive in the business. For Brind’Amour, he knew couldn’t do the job the way Maurice did it, but instead he found a way to adopt some aspects of his coaching and he “found a different way to be able to do it,” and it sure has paid off for the Hurricanes.
Now, the two will face off for the first time in a postseason series, and while the the respect shared between the two was evident during the pre-series pressers, the formalities will more than likely stop once the puck is dropped.