Peter Karmanos is the owner of the Carolina Hurricanes. He has just been named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in the category of “builder.” He can be described as outspoken, but also as someone who has made an enormous contribution to the sport of hockey over his lifetime.
Karmanos visited with the media Wednesday, and I had a chance to get up close to the man who says that ultimately he “takes responsibility for everything.” It did not take long for him to tee off on a certain Metropolitan Division rival. He quickly noted, “I do not have to take responsibility for Pittsburgh signing Kessel.” The Pittsburgh Penguins executed a huge trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs right before Karmanos sat down, sending Kessel to the Penguins.
Referring further to Pittsburgh Karmanos said,
“So Pittsburgh has no first-round picks anymore. They traded their first-round pick from the year before. They traded their first-round pick for this year. And now they’ve traded their first-round pick for next year. But they have Kessel, who may score as many goals as Alex Semin did. And I don’t have to take credit for that.”
On the Penguins being for sale, Karmanos added,
I think they’ll sell that team for between $700 and $800 million dollars. And the cupboard will be pretty bare by that time.”
— CBS Sports NHL (@CBSSportsNHL) July 2, 2015
When asked for his thoughts about his team, Karmanos said he’s never been more excited.
“In two years we will have, if not the very best defense in the league, near the top. And I believe you build winning teams from the goal line out. I’m very happy with our goalie situation at this point in time, and I think in the next year or two we will have eight really top-notch guys.”
His beliefs about the team’s defense aside, the Hurricanes still need to fill the hole left by trading Andrej Sekera last season. As I wrote in “Justin Faulk Needs Help,” the ‘Canes will need to give Faulk a partner that can match his play as a top-line defender. Noah Hanifin has a bright future, and was a superb draft pick for Carolina, but when will he be ready?
Karmanos wasn’t done having a go at former Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford. When asked about Rutherford as a general manager compared to current GM Francis, Karmanos said,
“Ronnie’s more astute on the financial end of the game. Jim (Rutherford) liked to talk about the fact that we’re a budget team. I’m not sure what that ever meant. Every team has a budget.”
He added regarding Francis,
“Ronnie’s a no-nonsense guy…he doesn’t panic. I think we have an outstanding working relationship.”
Francis surely received a glowing endorsement from his boss.
Karmanos was very candid about the team buying out Alexander Semin:
“He’s a very talented player. He could well get signed by somebody for a million bucks and score 50 goals this year. But he isn’t going to do it for us. We didn’t buy him out to save cap space or anything like that. We bought him out because he was a distraction. He wasn’t gonna perform. We just wanted to get on with this and want to build a team that can win.”
Karmanos is very convincing in his assertion that he wants the Hurricanes to win and that Francis is the man to guide the team in that direction. The fans may have to continue to be patient, but the pieces seem to be in place at the top to turn this team around. If Francis can add the pieces on the ice to get it done, playoff hockey may return to Raleigh yet.
On the way out the door at the end of the media gathering, Karmanos remembered he had heard enough about the Hurricanes possibly moving to another market and decided to talk about it. I’m not sure what set him off, but it was epic. Karmanos said,
“We’d have to be idiots to move this team. We have a very long lease, a very good deal, and a very good building. And we’re in one of the fastest growing markets in the country.”
When asked about fans concerns that if he sells the team the new owner might want to move it, Karmanos shook that off, too, saying,
“I would not sell the team to someone who said they were going to move the team.”
Fans in Raleigh should breathe a little easier about their Hurricanes staying put for the foreseeable future.
Karmanos has been in hockey for 40 years. His contributions to youth hockey are immeasurable. The Hurricanes website notes some of his contributions:
“He created the Compuware Youth Hockey Program in the 1970s, a system that has since produced 15 national championships, 34 state championships, 235 Division I scholarship hockey players and 14 NHL first-round draft picks.”
His imprint on the game is well-deserving of Hall of Fame recognition.
— Youth Hockey Review (@youthhockeyrev) July 2, 2015
I got to ride the elevator downstairs with Karmano as I was leaving, and he was headed out to enjoy a cigar. I congratulated him on his Hall of Fame selection, and he graciously said, “Thank you.”
I was left wondering just how much the lighter he had in his hand cost. It was half the size of my phone.
I really enjoyed meeting Peter Karmanos. His frankness and candor is refreshing. It’s not every day you get to hang with an NHL owner. I have a new respect for his business and hockey acumen and contributions to the game. Pretty cool.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.