If you have not yet seen the Canes and Coffee Summer Event 2015 that this blog is about, you can find it under the “Community” tab from the top of the page.
If you As I said in the ‘how-to’ for the Canes and Coffee summer event, the design of the brackets including the seedings and matchups are not simply the result of selecting and objectively ranking players. Rather, the goal was to build it to be fun and maybe even a little bit thought-provoking and also with a few twists and surprises. Most of those arrive in the 2nd bracket.
Making the Founding Fathers bracket and writing some of the bios were incredibly fun because of the memories it brought back for me. Some of the players here were responsible for delivering NHL hockey to North Carolina in the first few sometimes trying years. And then the others played an integral part in the magical 2002 playoff run that showed many new fans how great NHL could be at its peak. In the process, the first wave of lifelong fans, myself included, was created.
So please allow me to throw in some thoughts on the Founding Fathers bracket.
If the Carolina Hurricanes arrival in the NHL worked like the opening ceremony of the Olympics, I think the Canes circa 2001 entering on TV would be represented about like this:
1-Ron Francis (bio coming in 2nd round) would catch camera time early as the name known to all of the TV viewers and the leader of the group and greatest star. It was a huge deal and probably the first stamp of approval on Raleigh as a hockey destination when he chose to come here over other options.
2-Jeff O’Neill (bio coming in 2nd round) would also get camera time as a rising young star and maybe the future of the team depending on what year specifically you looked at.
3-But in the end Arturs Irbe (bio coming in 2nd round) would be carrying the flag as maybe the member of the team that most represented the young Caniac Nation. He was quirky and maybe really did not fit in. There was an element of being a bit of an oddball in the NHL initially and maybe even a bit of self-consciousness about it. It would be wrong to stereotype the entirety of the league’s fan base, but there was definitely an element of non-welcoming, condescending fans. So in some ways, I think Arturs Irbe with his underdog undersized warrior persona, out of place helmet from 20 years past and quirky personality and habits was actually quite fitting for the Caniac Nation at the time.
The bracket also includes many of the individual stories from the 2002 playoff run including Kevin Weekes “greatest save in Canes history” (my opinion), Jeff O’Neill of “the black eye game” fame and Josef Vasicek who scored what to this day I believe is the biggest goal in Canes history tipping game 5 in the Canes favor and setting the stage to defeat the evil empire.
The Founding Fathers ‘region’ also includes some interesting matchups and brackets. The set of four that includes Kevin Dineen, Sean Hill, Keith Primeau and Gary Roberts could probably hold its own in any hockey fight that did not include the old-school pure enforcers who mostly did not skate regular shifts. The set also features a potential second round matchup between the Canes’ first two captains in Kevin Dineen and Keith Primeau.
The bracket also features a first round matchup of the unlikely duo of Martin Gelinas and Josef Vasicek. (We will see a few more of those in the other brackets.) Gelinas was a veteran who was at a down point in his career when the two met up. He had actually been waived but not claimed, so he stayed with the Canes. And he was not living up to the scoring expectations hoped for when the Canes traded for him. Also, at least in terms of skill set, he leaned offense and was speedy. Vasicek on the other hand was young and very green as a player who broke into the NHL earlier than expected because the Canes lacked depth at the center position. His strength and reason for making the team was that he was at least defensively safe and sound. Unlike the speedy Gelinas, Vasicek was a big power forward with below average foot speed. But the two jelled. Their chemistry gave the 2002 Hurricanes the 3rd line that they needed to back up the 1st two lines that did the heavy lifting which was a vital part of the team’s success. So for the bracket I paired them together just like they were in the spring and summer of 2002.
In Jeff Daniels, Josef Vasicek and Martin Gelinas, the unsung heroes with important jobs but much less attention were also represented. Finally, the very bottom of the bracket is interesting. It pits the Bates Battaglia and Sami Kapanen who were the left wings on the Canes top two lines during the 2002 playoff run against each other. Battaglia was a big, physical grinder on the BBC line, and Kapanen was a small speedy wing on Francis’ scoring line. And the winner of this matchup faces one of the right wings from those top two lines in Jeff O’Neill. If the seedings hold, the bracket sets up for an interesting conclusion with the playmaker and sniper/batman and robin/veteran and apprentice pair of Ron Francis and Jeff O’Neill going head to head for a berth in the Canes Frozen Four.
All in all a wonderful trip down memory lane for some and a great Canes history lesson for others.