At a basic level, television broadcasters for sports teams have the job of presenting the product of the team and ideally adding something to its presentation and experience. But in their role, they have the potential to actually become a meaningful and sentimental part of the history, memories and nostalgia. When that happens, they become a part of the team’s fabric.
In a day and age when players move from team to team regularly, announcers can be the one constant that reaches across generations and team transitions. The Carolina Hurricanes community is incredibly lucky and blessed to have John Forslund as part of its community and as a piece of the history and nostalgia for the entirety of Canes hockey. His catch phrases and play calling are embedded in the team’s history and his positive attitude has contributed significantly to the development of the fan base and its unique culture and relationship with the Hurricanes hockey organization.
His catch phrases span different Canes hockey mini-eras. From the 2002 run we have “Irbe says no!” and the repeated use of “The Secret Weapon” for Niclas Wallin to describe the low-scoring defenseman’s propensity to repeatedly score clutch goals in the 2002 playoffs. He either coined or ingrained with his use various nicknames including the “Czech Condor” for Joseph Vasicek, “Wardo” for Cam Ward, “The Wizard” for Ray Whitney and others. Other phrases like “None better” for a Cam Ward save or “That’s hockey baby!” for a pretty goal will forever jump to mind for Caniacs on these plays.
In addition to the catch phrases and his professional trademark delivery, he is just phenomenally good at NHL play by play. It is not random coincidence that he has moved up the ranks in terms of volume and importance of games that he does for NBCSN despite the fact that his full-time gig is in Raleigh. And sadly as a Canes fan, the rumblings that he could be in line behind Doc Emerick to one-day take the reins as the lead for NBCSN play by play are earned and not surprising. Having only experienced one local broadcast teams, Canes fans are spoiled by having John Forslund. In short, John Forslund is an incredibly good NHL play by play announcer.
But I think his most significant contribution to the Carolina Hurricanes hockey community came much sooner and much more quietly. John Forslund was part of a team and one of the leaders in the early stages of establishing Canes hockey in North Carolina. The arrival of the NHL was not like if a baseball, football or basketball team arrived. Those sports are played by North Carolinians growing up and are understood. In a place where puddles and roads freeze occasionally but never a lake or pond for an extended period of time, people did not grow up playing hockey. Sure people were familiar with it, but except for transplants very few people grew up playing or watching the game. In the early days of recruiting a new fan base, John Forslund was an invaluable ambassador for the game and the team. He possessed a willingness to go above and beyond his formal role in the broadcast booth. Forslund put projected sincerity, warmness and willingness to meet fans wherever they were along the continuum from novices in the early 2000s who did not know what offsides was to people who grew up with NHL hockey but maybe as a fan of another team growing up somewhere else. For any and all fans, he shared his passion and love for the game and the team and engaged them with a warm welcoming attitude that was dramatically different from the formal distance that exists between large market teams and their huge fan bases.
The relationship between the Carolina Hurricanes and its fan base and community is a unique one in all of professional sports. John Forslund deserves significant credit as one of the builders of this special aspect of the Carolina Hurricanes hockey that permeates every aspect of its history and heritage. For that, and for being phenomenal for his formal role as the TV guy for the Canes I think John Forslund has claimed a significant place in the Hurricanes hockey community and its history.