The Carolina Hurricanes have undergone a massive change of culture over the last two years. This thanksgiving it’s the number one thing to be thankful for.
We have all seen the news recently. Between Mike Babcock and Bill Peters, it is obvious the NHL has a systemic issue with how players are treated. We have seen how massive a change it has been once these two coaches have been replaced. That is a rapid change of culture in a locker room.
Now obviously it stems deeper than just the coaches but in Carolina there has been such a rapid change and it has paid immediate dividends. But lets stray away from the coaching for a bit here and talk about all the other elements that have come to play for this Hurricanes team that has led to where we are now.
The first and most obvious thing is the change in leadership in the locker room. Having Justin Williams back for two season was huge. While he wasn’t immediately named Captain and we had to wait until his second season with the team before he was minted with the letter “C” on his jersey he was always a presence in that locker room.
He was there to win and he was there to have fun. Very rare that you find a player of that veteran status who is more than willing to stick it to the old ways and introduce something new and fresh to the culture of hockey. Even more rare is to also have an organization and system that is tolerant of it, embraces it, and even encourages it. Even more rare when it lives on without him.
Williams and the Storm Surge is only the tip of the iceberg. Bringing in players like Dougie Hamilton and entrusting him to take a rookie like Andrei Svechnikov under his wing is huge. Hamilton has been bounced around teams and has been labeled a “locker room cancer” for his quirky nature and his love of museums. To see a guy like him thrive in Carolina is a huge indicator that the culture has changed.
Not only have guys like Hamilton who have been labeled duds elsewhere and punted off on Carolina found new life within this culture, but also guys who have been around during the shift. Both Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen have hit career highs in points last season and are on pace to do so again this season. But it goes beyond score sheet stats.
The team had ten players remain healthy for the entire duration of the previous season, a full 82 games played, including captain Justin Williams. That set an NHL record and made it clear that whatever they were doing was working. It was even more clearer when they pushed towards their first playoff berth in a full decade.
Then came the magic of a hard fought come from two games down to win it in double overtime on the road seven game series with the Washington Capitals. Double down with a sweep of the New York islanders the next round and one thing became very clear. This new culture was here to stay, the critics be damned. What is even more magnificent is that it happened in a single season.
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So this Thanksgiving as you are stuffing your face with turkey, pie, cranberry sauce, and actual stuffing and watching the other sport with a ball shaped as an egg because there is no Hurricanes Hockey to watch be thankful that the change in culture has happened and continues to happen.
There is always room to be better at taking care of our players and placing their needs and health first. There is always room to listen to them and make the locker room and the ice a place where they can be themselves and deliver to us the entertainment we pay top dollar to go see. Always room to be thankful for what is and what could be.
Save them a slice of pie tomorrow.
Question for CC Readers: What are you most thankful for this season with the Hurricanes?