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5:54 PM ET, 5/15/06
'Canes lean on Rod
Posted by Yi-Wyn Yen
Last week several members of the Carolina Hurricanes spent part of an Italian dinner marveling over 35-year-old captain Rod Brind'Amour's stamina. "We were sitting there trying to pinpoint how he does it," says veteran defenseman Bret Hedican. "[In Game 2 against the New Jersey Devils] he's out there in overtime for a minute and a half, maybe even a two-minute shift. And Roddy still had enough gas in the tank to get the puck, be calm and collected with a guy on his back, turn, look for Nic [Wallin] and get [the puck] to him for the winning goal."
Not only his teammates are taking notice. For the first time in his 16 NHL seasons, Brind'Amour, who helped Carolina oust the Devils in five games in the second round, was nominated for the Selke Trophy as the league's best defensive forward after finishing the season with 31 goals and 39 assists and ranking third in the league in face-off win percentage (59.1).
"You get to be 35, people start wondering what's different," says Brind'Amour, whose team will face the Buffalo Sabres in the Eastern Conference finals. "We just have a better talent base, and the coach has given me more opportunities. It's nothing I'm doing differently."
Nevertheless, Brind'Amour has distinguished himself as one of the Hurricanes' most valuable players this postseason, producing offense (six goals, including two game-winners, and five assists) while logging major ice time (24:59 minutes per game, tops in the league among forwards). Says 'Canes coach Peter Laviolette, "He goes into the defensive zone for face-offs. He shuts down the other team's top line when he can. Power play, five-on-four, five-on-three, his number gets called."
Brind'Amour's contributions in games are a result of his dedication off the ice. While other Hurricanes saw a movie, visited the New York Stock Exchange or caught up on sleep on their only day off last week, Rod the Bod, who's a solid 6-feet 1-inch and 205 pounds, went to a health club, rode a stationary bike and lifted weights with Carolina's strength and conditioning coach, Peter Friesen. "You want guys to rest, but I just go crazy sitting around," says Brind'Amour.
His teammates are sometimes intimidated by his intense work ethic. Says Jeff Friesen, "When I break up the guys in two groups [for workouts], they want to see which side Brind'Amour is on and then go to the other side."
Brind'Amour, whose postgame routine includes hitting the weight room for more lifting, is not a leader just by example. When Carolina fell into an 0–2 hole against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, he called a players-only meeting and gave his teammates a motivational talk. "He said it was the people looking at you from across the locker room who had to get it done," recalls defenseman Aaron Ward. "We had to have confidence that we've been a consistent team. And no one's given us more stability than him."