In case you missed the short introduction last week, ‘The Bus’ is a new Canes and Coffee initiative aimed at offering a positive only oasis for existing Hurricanes hockey fans and also helping grow the fan base. You can read the first post and introduction HERE.
So I am an odd sort in that in my nearly 20 years now as a Hurricanes fan, I have never owned a jersey with a player’s name/number on it. Someday I will break down and buy a game worn or maybe just replica Rod Brind’Amour jersey, but until then I will stick by my mantra which is that I am a fan of the team and anyone who is on it at the time. But like every fan I have had a special attachment to certain players over the years.
One of them is Josef Vasicek. I think I initially latched on to him because he was young and new and shiny at a time when the team needed some of that. My attachment became more permanent when he scored what I think is still 1 of the 4-5 biggest goals in Carolina Hurricanes history.
My Josef Vasicek story
After winning the Southeast Division in the 2001-02 season, the Hurricanes had the unfortunate assignment of facing the New Jersey Devils who had beaten the Hurricanes in the previous year’s playoffs. But this time the Hurricanes were ready. They stormed out to a 2-0 series lead with 2 home wins and seemed on their way to something better. Next came a big thud when the Devils rebounded, chased Hurricanes goalie Arturs Irbe in both games and were utterly dominant in 2 wins. That set up game 5 in Raleigh. Before the game, the experts seemed to write the Hurricanes 2 wins off as a slow start for New Jersey and had the Devils winning the series going way. To this day, game 5 of that series is an equal favorite to when we hoisted the Cup in June of 2006. Coach Paul Maurice decided to go with Kevin Weekes in net (which is an equally good story for another day), and he responded. The game went to overtime and featured what I still call the greatest save in Hurricanes history before Josef Vasicek scored the overtime winner to push the Hurricanes up 3-2 and put them on the path to winning the series 4-2. Without that Vasicek goal, there would have been no Miracle at Molson. There would have been no Jeff O’Neill black eye game. There would have been no Niclas Wallin overtime heroics. There would have been no Stanley Cup Finals that included Ron Francis’ overtime winner that shocked Detroit and the crazy 1:30am game for the first Stanley Cup game in Raleigh. What would Hurricanes history look like if Josef Vasicek had not scored that overtime game-winner and instead the Hurricanes had again lost in the first round to New Jersey? Josef Vasicek’s legacy is bigger than that, but that 1 goal might still be his greatest contribution to Hurricanes history. For that, I am incredibly thankful.
My schedule last night and today does not allow me to also include a short how-to for new fans, but I will pick that up again with the next post.
I challenge you to tell me who your favorite Hurricanes player is and to share a short story on why that player has a special place in your hockey heart.
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