Former Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward announced his retirement from the NHL on August 28, after signing a one-day contract with the team.
Ward spent 13 of his 14 years with the Hurricanes, taking the team to a Conference Finals appearance in 2009 and winning the Stanley Cup Final in 2006, his rookie year. Ward finished with 334 career wins in 701 games played with a career save percentage of .908 and a goals against average of 2.74 while registering 27 shutouts.
"It was an honor and a privilege to wear the Hurricanes jersey for 13 years," said Ward in a Canes press release. "Throughout it all, what stayed clear to me was my love for this organization, this city and this fan base. It is why my family and I call Raleigh home, and will continue to call it home. I appreciate all of the support the fans gave me throughout the highs and the lows. I thank you.”
Ward was drafted by the Hurricanes 25th overall in 2002 from the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. Ward is the only goaltender ever selected in the first round of the NHL entry draft by the Hurricanes and the second in franchise history (Jean-Sebastien Giguere was drafted in the first round by the Hartford Whalers in 1995).
"Cam was a cornerstone for this organization for more than a decade," said Waddell in the same press release. "From his 'Cam's Champs' program to his efforts with the Hurricanes Foundation and time spent teaching at our hockey camps, he had a tremendous impact on this community. We're proud that he has chosen to retire with the Carolina Hurricanes."
Ward got his first NHL win in his first NHL start in a memorable game on Oct. 7, 2005. Headed to a shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins tied 2-2, a rookie Ward first faced off against future Hall of Famer and legend Mario Lemieux. Then he faced Ziggy Palffy, who had scored the tying goal in the final minute. Finally, future Hall of Famer, at that time rookie, Sidney Crosby, stopping all three elite shooters to earn his first-ever NHL win.
Ward picked up a stat-line of 14-8-2 in 28 starts for the remainder of his rookie season backing up starter Martin Gerber. However, Ward stole the spotlight from Gerber early on in the start of the 2006 playoffs.
In the Eastern quarterfinals, No. 2 seed Carolina faced off against the seventh-seeded Montreal Canadiens. Game one was a total blowout with Montreal shelling the Canes 6-1. Gerber played the full 60 minutes and still started game two. However, after surrendering three goals in the first period, Gerber was pulled in favor of Ward. The Hurricanes mounted a comeback, taking the game into double overtime before ultimately losing. Despite the loss, Ward proved more capable in net and the reigns were handed over to him. Carolina went on to win the next four games and advance to the Eastern semifinals against the New Jersey Devils.
Ward and the Hurricanes defeated the Devils in five games and advanced to face the Buffalo Sabres in the Conference Finals. Ward was pulled in a game three loss, and Gerber started game four, but was pulled in game five after surrendering three goals.
Ward backstopped the Hurricanes’ game five comeback and was cemented to the starting position for the remainder of the playoffs and the rest is history, as Ward won the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoff MVP. The 2006 Stanley Cup was the first and only for the Hurricanes franchise and Ward became the first rookie goaltender to win the Conn Smythe since Ron Hextall in 1987.
While Ward only backstopped the Hurricanes to one more playoff run in 2009, it was still a deep and exciting run that saw Carolina knock off the New Jersey Devils again in a seven games in a series that saw quite a few memorable last-minute goals. The Canes then went on to defeat the top-seeded Boston Bruins in a seven game slugfest before running out of steam, falling to the eventual Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in a four-game sweep.
Ward collected only a pair of hardware over his career, although granted the most prominent pair, but he also obtained a few honors, milestones and Carolina franchise records in his 14-year career. Ward is the franchise leader in career games played (668), wins (318), shutouts (27) and saves (17,261).
Ward was also recognized for his role and importance to the Hurricanes team and fanbase when he was selected for the 2011 All-Star Game in Raleigh. In a season that saw Ward bearing the heavy burden of starter, starting all but nine games, it was a special moment of recognition.
Ward was selected first overall in the NHL’s new all-star format of having two fan-voted captains draft a team from the pool of all stars. Longtime friend, teammate and then-Hurricanes captain Eric Staal selected Ward first overall much to the crowd in Raleigh’s jubilation.
An even rarer honor that Ward shares is he is one of only eleven goalies in NHL history to be credited with a goal. In a 2011 game against the Devils, the Canes were up 3-2 with about half a minute left in the game. With the Devils controlling the puck and their net empty for the extra attacker, Ward made a save on a New Jersey shot sending it to the corner. Devils’ forward Ilya Kovalchuk collected the rebound and sent a hard pass to the point which sailed past the Devils blueliner and directly into the empty net. Since Ward was the last Hurricanes player to touch the puck, he was awarded the goal, making him the 10th goalie in NHL history to be credited with a goal.
Ward’s time with the Hurricanes soured as the team’s struggles began to mount year after year. While Ward became a polarizing figure to a fanbase desperate for wins, he gave his all to the team. Multiple years playing over 60 games per season took its toll on the goaltender who also saw himself in the top 10 for shots against for multiple seasons as well.
The team ultimately made the decision to move on from Ward prior to the 2018-19 season, deciding to not re-sign him at the expiration of his contract.
While Ward was one of the only stable points on a constantly shifting and failing team, one of the only stationary targets Canes fans could focus their anguish against, Ward was the ultimate Cane. Loved by the community that he constantly and passionately gave back to through outreach programs like Cam’s Champs, Ward was an inspiration to rising Carolina hockey fans and should be immortalized in the rafters as what it means to be a Hurricane.
"I'd also like to thank the great teammates, coaches and staff members I worked with during my time as a player in Carolina,” Ward said. “I will always treasure my memories as a player at PNC Arena, from winning the Stanley Cup to representing the organization in the All-Star Game. While this wasn't an easy decision, I'm looking forward to making the transition with my family and seeing what the future holds for me post career."
Ward was such an important piece of the Hurricanes organization for so many fans. From all the memorable times Canes broadcaster John Forslund would proclaim “Ward says no,” nearly every longtime fan can reflect on a spectacular save or moment from Cam Ward.