Cam Ward should be remembered as a Carolina legend
Cam Ward returned to Carolina Wednesday. The comeback would be short-lived in the best way possible, as the Conn Smythe winner signed a one-day contract in order to retire as a Hurricane. The move was the perfect way to end the career of a player whose legacy is intertwined with the Hurricanes franchise.
Ward’s impact on the franchise can not simply be explained by his stats, as impressive as they are. The franchise goalie record holder in games played, wins, shutouts, saves, and winning percentage was also a leader in the community. His “Cam’s Champs” initiative provided both a great opportunity for the Special Olympic Athletes in the area to enjoy a game, as well as raising money for the organization. The program was also a forerunner of similar programs started by other Canes to support local charities.
With that said, there were many who found themselves tired of Cam, particularly as the playoff drought dragged on. The angst was heightened by no sign of Ward ever achieving the former glory of his Stanley Cup winning effort. Although there may have been another factor under the surface.
I believe that half of the anger directed at Ward in his later years in Carolina, were more rightly directed at the front office’s inability to find a suitable replacement for the goalie. Year after year, new signings or prospects would come in as the heir apparent, some even usurping Ward for stretches, but inevitably, they would falter and be revealed to be average to subpar.
While Ward was never able to reclaim his former glory, he was always able to outplay his competition when pushed to, and that frustrated an already on edge fanbase. The frustration grew for so long it caused many fans to forget or ignore Ward’s past successes.
For better or worse, Ward is the first player to be drafted by the Canes, build his legacy completely with the Canes, and retire as a Cane. No one else can match his legacy since the franchise came to North Carolina. Love him or hate him, Ward is a Carolina Hurricanes’ legend in every sense of the word.