RALEIGH — Cam Ward, whose heroics in net during the 2006 postseason helped the Carolina Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup and earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, will sign a one-day contract with the team and retire, the Hurricanes announced Wednesday.
Ward, 35, was a 2002 first-round pick of the Hurricanes and played 13 seasons in Carolina, setting franchise records in virtually every goaltending category. He’s best known for his performance as a 22-year-old rookie in the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Ward relieved struggling starter Martin Gerber and carried the Hurricanes through the playoffs, earning 15 of Carolina’s 16 postseason wins to propel the team to its only title.
But Ward and the Hurricanes struggled to match their play from that run, and the Hurricanes reached the postseason just one other time (2009) during his time in Raleigh. He was not re-signed by Carolina following the 2017-18 season, and he played last season with the Chicago Blackhawks. He finished his career with 334 wins — all but 16 coming with the Hurricanes — which ranks 23rd all-time among NHL goalies.
“It was an honor and a privilege to wear the Hurricanes jersey for 13 years,” Ward said in a team 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.”
Raised in Sherwood Park, Alberta, Ward starred for the Western Hockey League’s Red Deer Rebels and was picked 25th overall by Carolina at the 2002 draft. He is the only goalie selected in the first round by the Hurricanes since the team’s relocation to North Carolina in 2006, and he joins fellow Conn Smythe winner Jean-Sebastian Giguere (1995, Hartford) as the only goalies chosen in Round 1 in franchise history.
Ward played the 2004-05 NHL lockout season in the American Hockey League with the Lowell Lock Monsters — then Carolina’s top affiliate — and was among the league’s top goalies. Also on that team was Eric Staal, Carolina’s second overall pick in 2003 who made the Hurricanes the prior season but was relegated to the AHL due to the lockout.
The two would become synonymous with Hurricanes hockey — both the good and the bad.
The following season, Staal led the Hurricanes in goals and scoring, while Ward eased into his first NHL season with 28 regular season appearances. The Hurricanes were the surprise of the NHL, going from expected bottom-feeders to Southeast Division champions with a 52-22-8 record, good for 112 points and the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
But Carolina stumbled in its opening two games of its first-round series with Montreal. Ward relieved Gerber during Game 2 at home, only to lose in double overtime. Ward was given the start in Game 3, and he stopped 27 of 28 shots in an overtime game won on a Staal goal. The Hurricanes won the next three games and then advanced through the Eastern Conference, beating New Jersey in five games and Buffalo in seven to earn a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Carolina faced Western Conference eighth-seed Edmonton in the final, and the Hurricanes won Game 7 on home ice to earn their only Stanley Cup. The lasting image of the run was Ward making a stunning rebound save on the Oilers’ Fernando Pisani to keep the Hurricanes ahead in the deciding game.
But Ward and the Hurricanes couldn’t recapture the success of the 2005-06 season, failing to make the playoffs the following year and only reaching the postseason one more time — 2009’s run to the Eastern Conference Final — during Ward’s tenure in Raleigh. He became one of the faces of the team’s nine-year playoff drought that finally ended last season while Ward was in Chicago.
Ward still piled up huge numbers during his time in Carolina, and he holds the franchise goaltending records for games played (668), wins (318), saves (17,261) and shutouts (27).
“Cam was a cornerstone for this organization for more than a decade,” Hurricanes GM Don Waddell said in the team 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.”