RALEIGH, N.C. – Rod Brind’Amour props open the bench door, leans over the ice and yells:
“Hunt it, Brooks! Hunt for it.”
Brind’Amour, the head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, is at a near-empty Polar Ice rink a little north of downtown. Brooks is his 11-year-old son, playing for the 11-and-under Junior Canes. And he’s skating hard on the forecheck, fighting for the puck. Brooks, the youngest and smallest player on the team, wears No. 17, just like his father. One of his linemates is Jagger Burns, 11, son of current Hurricanes defenseman Brent Burns.
Brind’Amour may be the most decorated assistant coach for a youth hockey team in the country. And the guy next to him in flip flops and a black Hurricanes jumpsuit, retired Kings and Hurricanes winger Justin Williams, might be a close second.
But on days like this, Williams says, “we’re just dads.”
Brind’Amour, 52, has just returned from the NHL All-Star Game in South Florida. One day, he was offering instruction to superstars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. A couple of days later, he is teaching hockey fundamentals to a team that includes Brooks, Jagger and Williams’ 11-year-old daughter, Jade.
“They don’t have any clue I’m the coach of the Hurricanes,” Brind’Amour says. “It’s funny. I’m just Brooks’ dad.”
And like dads everywhere, oftentimes when he tells the kids something, “I’ll get a little roll of the eyes,” he says. “I don’t get that from my (NHL) guys. I get it from the 11-year-olds, like, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about.’”
Of course, he does. Brind’Amour is one of the best coaches in the NHL (he was coach of the year in 2021) and his playing career is considered by some Hall of Fame-worthy. He’s currently leading a Hurricanes team primed for a run at the Stanley Cup.