Though new to the organization, Mike Commodore was a known quantity to the Carolina Hurricanes when he arrived before the 2005-06 season. With Calgary, Commodore played a modest 12 games at the NHL level in the 2003-04 regular season but stepped in to play a solid 20 games in the playoffs as an injury fill in for a Flames team that ran all the way to the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals. The NHL lockout of 2004-05 brought him closer to the Carolina Hurricanes fold. He played the 2004-05 lockout season with the Lowell Lock Monsters which was the shared AHL affiliate for both the Hurricanes and Flames at the time. There he joined Cam Ward, Eric Staal and Chad LaRose on a split team and showcased his game for Canes management who were there watching the Canes young stars. When a deep Calgary blue line made him expendable, the Jim Rutherford pounced and acquired Commodore before the 2005-06 season for a third round draft pick.
With minimal NHL experience, Commodore seemed destined for a depth role, but on a Canes team light on experienced blue liners, he rose up the depth chart quickly and found chemistry with Bret Hedican. This gave him a role in the Canes top four. Commodore was a bit of an anomaly in that he seemed to adjust pretty well to the post lockout NHL re-designed for speed and skill at the expense of big, physical defensemen. Many big, physical defensemen struggled to adjust to a game that actually called penalties for even minor holding, hooking and obstruction penalties that were previously a key tool to slowing speedier players. The elimination of the red line also made for new decisions on where and how to defend as the puck started coming up the ice because the first pass did not necessarily have to be in front of you anymore. But unlike many similar players, Mike Commodore settled in quickly, claimed a top four slot and had a solid 2005-06 regular season. He finished with three goals and ten assists in 72 games in addition to 135 penalty minutes in his secondary role defending teammates when necessary.
He brought the same brand of solid stay-home defensive play during the 2005-06 playoffs continuing his successful pairing with Bret Hedican. But maybe even more so than his play on the ice, Mike Commodore will forever be remembered in Canes history for the fun off the ice. In the middle of the drama, tension and even stress during the playoff run, Commodore was the comic and pressure relief off the ice. Who would have guessed that the gift that he selected and received from the team’s “select your annual holiday gift from the catalogue full of random stuff” would grow to become part of Hurricanes hockey lore. He selected and received a simple white bath robe that took a step up with the addition of his number 22 thanks to a little work from the equipment crew, and off he went. He was regularly seen about the locker room and interviews decked out with his huge red-haired playoff afro and beard and the white robe. By the midway point of the playoffs, the robes were available at the stadium gift shop and were a regular site before the games amongst the throngs of tailgaters outside the then RBC Center. There are obviously many visuals and memories from the magical 2006 playoff run, but if I play word association with “2006 Hurricanes playoff FUN”, I get Mike Commodore every time. You can find a more detailed write up on Mike Commodore’s robe on the team site HERE. You can also find a decent set of photos simply by Googling “Mike Commodore robe.”
He went on to play one and a half more seasons with the Hurricanes before being traded with Cory Stillman to Ottawa in the midst of the 2008-09 season. In his time as a Cane, he played 195 games and collected 13 goals, 41 assists and 426 penalty minutes. But Mike Commodore’s biggest contributions to Carolina Hurricanes hockey history were during the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs with his play on the ice as an underrated top four defenseman and for his personality, humor and fun off the ice.