If I were a beat reporter who tracked the team day to day for a living and/or if I had been a writing rhythm when the news broke initially, I would have written about John Forslund and that whole situation when it broke. Instead, I have been a bit stuck at how to come at that whole thing.
For those with a subscription to The Athletic, Sara Civian caught up with John Forslund and shared some perspective from his side of the situation.
But I am not using hyperbole when I say that the John Forslund situation is the biggest thing happening with the Carolina Hurricanes right now despite the fact that we are now only two weeks from playoff hockey.
In my book, John Forslund ranks second only to Rod Brind’Amour in terms of being central to the fabric of the team, organization and community. (If you want to make a case for Ron Francis for what he did getting hockey on the map in North Carolina, I acknowledge the merit in your opinion but stick with mine that has Forslund only behind Brind’Amour.)
Though John Forslund’s formal role is that of a television play-by-play announcer, his place in Hurricanes hockey history and our community is much more substantial than that.
He has been with us since the beginning of Hurricanes hockey back in 1997 in Greensboro. He, along with the early players, did the hard work to lay a foundation for hockey in North Carolina. My first impression of John Forslund (and Chuck Kaiton too for that matter) is how both were always accessible to the fan base and willing to talk and answer questions from both long-time hockey fans and new fans who were new to the game with the same respect and sincerity. That accessibility of the founding members of the Hurricanes organization laid the foundation for what became a special and unique relationship between the team and fan base that I have not seen anywhere else is in my life’s sports travels.
Since then, Forslund has been an integral part of the highest highs in the team’s deep playoff runs in 2002, 2006, 2009 and 2019. But maybe more significantly, John Forslund was someone that the fan base could be proud of and enjoy during the significant lows in between the playoff runs.
He is very clearly one of us, and I think that is where Tom Dundon and Canes management miscalculated.
With that, let me tackle the situation from a couple different angles somewhat in stream of consciousness format (stop reading now if you cannot take that :-)).
In some ways the situation was different, but this current situation definitely reminds me of the Don Waddell situation last summer. Despite building a playoff team in his first season as general manager, Waddell was suddenly flying to Minnesota to at least consider the General Manager position with the wild. Similar comments were made about Waddell having the opportunity to pursue opportunities. He ultimately returned, but the situation was still quite bizarre and showed Dundon’s comfort level running his business out of the norm.
Misunderstanding of Forslund’s role
Per what I said above, I think what is most striking is how much of a misestimation this is of Forslund’s role. He is not a television announcer. He is an ambassador for the entire team, a key part of the product and someone that the fan base values well beyond his role. I was not surprised to see Forslund’s next contract result in a negotiation. He has earned the right to be paid a premium for his role and with that comes a legitimate need to negotiate terms. But in not getting something done even if it was a bit more than desired, I think Tom Dundon is shooting himself in the foot. The goodwill that is being lost pretty much unanimously among the fan base is hard to put an exact number to but is no doubt substantial. And I think that the ill will he is generating is something that fans will maybe put away but at some point pull back out. That is to say, with the team winning right now, I suspect many of the grumblers (myself included) will not muster any kind of boycott. But if/when there is another downturn, this it the type of ill will that will have many people souring on Tom Dundon and wanting to stick it to him at some point.
With games being played without fans putting all of the die-hard fans in front of their televisions for each and every game. The broadcast is even more critical to the product. And if the 2020-21 sees part or all of the season played without fans, the significance grows further. Timing could not be worse for not having John Forslund playing his part in the quality of the television version of the Canes product.
The remaining/new crew
If he does okay in the tactical part of the role, elevating Mike Maniscalco up into the booth is a smart move by Dundon. Maniscalco is similarly loved by the fan base. That maybe lessens the uproar and reduces the pessimistic scrutiny that the broadcasts receive from the fan base. But it does not undo the damage.
Chance for reconciliation?
During the early stages of this situation when Forslund’s contract expired at the beginning of July, I fully expected that the situation would ultimately be resolved. My best guess was that Dundon was negotiating to contain costs as much as possible but was also realized that he had the keep Forslund even with a premium price for his role. But with more time passing and the recent comments by both sides, that seems less likely now.
Has Seattle hired for this role yet? Who better to be a face for a new franchise than someone who played a similar role for the Hurricanes many years ago.
What say you Canes fans?
1) If you had to pick a percent between 0 and 100 for a John Forslund return, what would it be at this point?
2) If Forslund does not return, other than grumbling how does this change your feelings about the Carolina Hurricanes and what do you do differently as a fan going forward?
3) Any other thoughts/comments on the situation?