Carolina Hurricanes

Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour sets priorities before Game 7 against the Bruins

A 2016 photo shows Rod Brind’Amour, right, getting a kiss from his son Brooks Brind’Amour during a red carpet reception held before an NHL game played between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Pittsburgh Penguins at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. on 2016. Chris Seward File photo

Never mind the age gap — Skyler is 22, a 2017 NHL draft pick by the Edmonton Oilers who just finished playing at Quinnipiac University, and Brooks is 10, a 2011-born member of the Junior Canes program — the brothers, under the watchful eye of their father, ran the same drills. Quick passes to two points with quick lateral movements and crossovers in between, followed by a pass along the boards and a quick move toward the net with a finishing shot past an imaginary goaltender.

That explains the skates during the news conference.

It also explains a whole lot more.

Here is the fourth-year head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes — a team on the eve of a Game 7 that, should they lose, would bring to an end a bitterly disappointing playoff run following the best regular season in franchise history — on the ice not with his power-play unit, but with his family unit.

Carolina Hurricanes’ Rod Brind ‘Amour instructs his son Skyler (6) following the teams practice, Saturday, June 3, 2006, in Raleigh, N.C. KARL DEBLAKER, Associated Press

Priorities.

And, perhaps, Brind’Amour’s method of keeping things in perspective. Remember, he did start to say Game 7, “At the end of the day, it’s a game,” before adding later, “everything matters that much more.”

It’s that perspective everyone needs now and again, some more than others.

As Brind’Amour rimmed pucks along the boards to his sons, he barked instructions, using his stick to point to locations on the ice where each skater should be. He was effusive in his praise of young Brooks, who on one pass toward the net finished with a stick-between-the-legs wrister to the top corner. He was equally supportive of Skyler, who missed a few in a row from point blank range and was getting audibly frustrated. (It appears the passion for perfection is an easily-passed genetic trait.)

Much like he’d been in practice earlier in the afternoon, Brind’Amour was firm in direction, and supportive in correction.

There are some who will look at what was happening on the day before one of the biggest games in the franchise’s recent rebirth and feel like Brind’Amour was being too callous, too nonchalant, perhaps too confident knowing Game 7 is at home, where the team had yet to lose this postseason.

He should be reviewing video, right? Searching for a way to stop Boston’s suddenly potent power play? Figuring out his matchups?

Some coaches would. Some wouldn’t sleep. Others would gnaw their way through four packs of gum while sullying white board after white board.

Some might even work on a pregame speech. But, as Brind’Amour wryly said during his availability, “I don’t have to say too much. You don’t have to say much this time of year.”

It’s a balance that creates a levelheadedness that permeates the locker room. It’s part of what makes Brind’Amour so different from his predecessors, and what helps him relate so well to his players. Yes, his job is important, and it requires commitment well beyond normal working hours. But that’s not all there is to life.

Skyler and Brooks? That pair is a far greater raison d’être than coaching in the NHL, so much so that there’s a sense that, if he ever left his job with the Hurricanes (or was asked to leave), he’d probably be done coaching at the top level altogether. After his trade to Raleigh from Philadelphia during the 1999-2000 season, Brind’Amour put down roots here. He played out his career here. He won a Stanley Cup here. And he’s raising a family here.

Saturday afternoon, the sounds in the rink would be far different: Click-clack-ping or click-clack-silence replaced by bodies smacking, skates crunching, horns and sirens sounding, fans roaring.

But on Friday, while Hurricanes players cooled down after an off-day practice, foraged for lunch, broke down video assignments or received treatments from team therapists, Brind’Amour fulfilled his media obligations and casually returned to the ice for some family R&R, a moment of balance amid a cacophony of hockey-related distractions.

As the doors clicked closed behind the final members of the media to leave on this day, the clack-clack-thuds faded into the background.

This story was originally published May 14, 2022 7:02 AM.

Justin is a 20-year veteran sports journalist with stops in Lewiston, Maine (Sun Journal), and Boston (Boston Herald). A proud husband, and father of twin girls, Pelletier is a Boston University graduate and member of the esteemed Jack Falla sportswriting mafia. He has earned dozens of state and national sportswriting and editing awards covering preps, colleges and professional leagues.
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