In preparing to launch the 2nd round bracket for the Canes and Coffee Summer Event 2015, I gradually finishing/posting bios for the players who had 1st round byes.
Aaron Ward is a fitting entry in an ‘Unsung Heroe’s category amongst Carolina Hurricanes greats. His years of service were only five and his scoring totals were modest, but his timing was good and his contributions to winning playoff hockey with the Hurricanes were significant. Consider that Aaron Ward was one of only two defenseman who played in the top four in both the 2002 and 2006 Stanley Cup runs. In the 2002 playoffs, he was paired with the other such player, Bret Hedican. In the 2006 playoffs, Ward was paired with Frantisek Kaberle.
Acquired in a ho-hum summer deal for future considerations from Detroit, Aaron Ward quickly found a place and a role on the Canes blue line. His place was in the top four as a defense-first/shutdown type. His role was that of a big, physical defenseman who did the hard stuff. Ward made opposing forwards keep their heads up and tread wearily through the middle of the ice and across the blue line because of his propensity for big open ice hits. He was also a regular on the penalty kill, regularly laying down in front of shots and living amongst the team’s leaders in blocked shots. And he had a knack for being the stay-home part of a pairing with more of a skating, puck-carrying defender.
He joined the Canes before the 2001-02 season and left after the 2005-06 season only to return for a second tour of duty in the 2009-10 season. In those five seasons of hockey, Aaron Ward logged 336 regular season games and collected 16 goals and 51 assists.
He also played some of his best hockey in a Canes sweater in his 48 playoff games. In the playoffs, he was part of two underrated blue lines that were twice good enough to play in the Stanley Cup Finals and once good enough to win it. To go with shift after shift of solid defensive play, his top highlight was scoring the first goal only 1:26 into game seven of the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals against Edmonton. The goal staked the Canes to an early lead, fired up the home crowd and put the pressure squarely on Edmonton to try to counter. The Canes obviously went on to win the game 3-1 and the Stanley Cup in the process.
Aaron Ward does not rank high in many statistical categories, but he played a very important role in the Hurricanes first two deep playoff runs that helped establish NHL hockey in North Carolina and put the Hurricanes on the map.