Cam Ward is retiring as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes after signing a one-day contract with the team that gave him his NHL start.
The 35-year-old netminder announced on Wednesday that he was hanging up his skates after a 14-season NHL career that saw him win the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy in his rookie season of 2005-06.
“It was an honor and a privilege to wear the Hurricanes jersey for 13 years,” said Ward in a statement via the Hurricanes. “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.
“I’d also like to thank the great teammates, coaches and staff members I worked with during my time as a player in Carolina. 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.”
A Hurricanes first-round pick in 2002, Ward reached the NHL in 2005-06 and served as Martin Gerber’s backup during the regular season. His first ever start and victory came during a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins that saw him deny Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby in the shootout. It was in the playoffs later that season where he made his name.
With the Hurricanes down 0-2 to the Montreal Canadiens in Round 1, Hurricanes head coach Peter Laviolette turned to Ward after Gerber struggled. Carolina would win four straight to advance and seven in a row into Round 2 where they would dispatch the New Jersey Devils in five games. A back-and-forth Eastern Conference Final against the Buffalo Sabres saw the Hurricanes move on to the Cup Final after seven games.
Carolina would again need the maximum number of games against the Edmonton Oilers to become champions, with Ward becoming the fourth rookie goaltender to earn playoff MVP honors after posting a .937 even strength save percentage over 23 appearances.
Ward was also an All-Star in 2011 at home in Raleigh and 11 months later he became the 10th NHL goaltender to be credited with scoring a goal.
He finishes his career with 701 appearances, 334 wins and Hurricanes franchise records in regular-season games played (668), wins (318), shutouts (27), and saves (17,261). Ward spent last season with the Chicago Blackhawks, but he was always going to be remembered for his time in Carolina.
“Cam was a cornerstone for this organization for more than a decade,” said Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell. “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.”
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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.