On October 5, 2005, the Carolina Hurricanes welcomed a new era of hockey, one involving former first round draft pick Cam Ward.
Not many people realized how big this future star would be for the Hurricanes, a team that had yet to win a Stanley Cup, but as the months progressed in the 2005-2006 season, people started to take notice.
Cam’s rookie regular season wasn’t a magical one. He went 14-8-2 with a 3.68 goals against average and .882 save percentage. When playoff time rolled around, established starting goalie Martin Gerber went on the shelf, and someone had to step up.
The story of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs has been told an innumerable amount of times in North Carolina, we know what happened. Cam Ward went an unprecedented 15-8 in the playoffs with a 2.14 goals against average and .920 save percentage in 23 appearances in route to North Carolina’s first and only professional sports championship. Ward won the Conn Smythe for the most valuable player in the playoffs that year.
Since then, Cam Ward has been one of just two players to stay as the “core” of the Hurricanes, Eric Staal being the lone other team member to win the Stanley Cup with the Canes and remain with the team now.
Through all the ups, downs, injuries, personal accomplishments, and career milestones, Cam Ward has been THE guy for the Carolina Hurricanes, which is significant not only to him, but also to this community.
You truly do not see guys come in and handle the game the way that Cam has and continues to do. He is a quiet, down to earth person that will not give reporters a “juicy quote”, so to speak. He is a guy that will be there for his team through thick and thin, and anyone who debates otherwise does not understand hockey or the foundation that this organization is built on.
Cam Ward, year in and year out, has given this team hope. Even in the darkest of times in this organization’s history, Ward has always been that guy where you can say, “well, at least we have him.” With Cam there was always at least a chance to win, whether some fans want to admit it or not.
I’m not writing this to try to convince you that Cam Ward is this NHL legend, I truly am not, because he isn’t. But what I am trying to say is that he is a legend to the state, the community, the fans, and the organization that we all stake claim to.
Cam Ward has played in 471 regular season games since his rookie year, 499 total. Tonight, February 24, Ward will play in his 500th NHL game, becoming just the 5th active goalie, and the 2nd youngest active goalie, to do so.
Through all the uncertainty, whether it is an injury, a trade rumor, competition for the starting goalie job, and all other things, Cam Ward has continued to a consummate pro even when he had every reason not to be.
You don’t see players stay with one team for long periods of time anymore. With all the money the NHL has gained, teams will go out and spend uncalled for amounts of cash to obtain one player. Cam Ward has played 499 games in the NHL and 499 games with the Carolina Hurricanes. That is something special that we will not see again from a Canes goalies for a very long time.
For just this one day, let’s forget about the trade rumors, the struggles Cam has had, the future, and everything else, and just honor a Hurricane legend in one of his biggest milestones as he becomes the first Canes goalie to suit up in 500 games for this team. We don’t know how much longer we will have a Cam Ward in our locker room.