Rod Brind’Amour has played and coached many games in the NHL, but there never has been one like the game Wednesday.
The Carolina Hurricanes coach looked out on the ice at PNC Arena to see his oldest son, Skyler, competing in an NHL game. There was pride and there was emotion for both father and son, who took time for a few quick photos together at the Carolina bench before the Canes’ 4-1 victory.
Granted, it was a preseason exhibition game. But Skyer Brind’Amour, a forward in the Florida Panthers system, was playing against his dad, trying to beat his dad’s team -- for so long, his team.
It was at PNC Arena that Skyler watched his father win the Stanley Cup in 2006, where he all but grew up with hockey, often around the Canes’ locker room. This time was different.
“It was pretty cool,” Skyler Brind’Amour said after the game. “It’s just a dream come true to be able to play in this building. Obviously, I wish there was a little better outcome for the fellows, but it was an awesome experience.”
Skyler said his dad had a few quick words of advice before the game -- the same words Rod Brind’Amour often has said to his own rookies.
“He just said to enjoy it, that was his message,” Skyler said. “You never know when this chance can happen again, so you just have to enjoy this one. And I certainly did. It was a lot of fun.”
After practice Wednesday morning, Rod Brind’Amour said he was thankful that Panthers coach Paul Maurice was giving Skyler a “once-in-a lifetime opportunity.”
“He’s put in a lot of hard work over the years and I’ve witnessed it,” Brind’Amour said.
Skyler Brind’Amour, 24, was in the Panthers’ starting lineup and at times found himself on the ice with the Canes’ Brent Burns, Jaccob Slavin and others. He skated with some of those guys during the summer, but there was a game to be won this time.
“Those guys are world class,” Skyler Brind’Amour said. “It’s unbelievable. I was fortunate to watch them the last couple of years, but to be out there with them, it was crazy. It was definitely fun to play against them. It was hard but it was fun.”
The Panthers led 1-0 after two periods behind goaltender Spencer Knight, but rapid-fire goals from Stefan Noesen, Ryan Suzuki and then Skjei off the rush in barely three minutes pushed the Canes ahead 3-1 in the third, and Michael Bunting had a late empty-net goal.
Antti Raanta and Yaniv Perets -- Skyler Brind’Amour’s former Quinnipiac teammate -- split the goaltending for the Hurricanes.
Rod Brind’Amour said he learned a few days ago that Skyler was scheduled to be in the Panthers’ lineup for the exhibition game. He watched from the bench as Skyler took the pregame warmup, then had that brief moment with Skyler and youngest son Brooks to squeeze in that photo that will be a family memento.
“It was just a great moment for him, for all of us,” Rod Brind’Amour said. “He’s skated on this ice probably more than anybody since he was a little kid. It’s special. Now we’ve got something to talk about forever.”
There have been times the past five years when Rod and Skyler Brind’Amour have been seen at PNC Arena along with Brooks. Rod often did much of the passing while his sons did the shooting.
Skyler Brind’Amour once played for the Junior Hurricanes, at times with his father as a volunteer coach. As he got older, as he matured and got bigger, he began to develop into a better player.
Skyler was drafted in the sixth round by the Edmonton Oilers in 2017 and spent two years of junior hockey in the British Columbia Hockey League. Deciding to play college hockey at Quinnipiac, he was a part of the Bobcats’ run to an NCAA championship this past year.
The Charlotte Checkers, now the Panthers’ AHL affiliate, signed Brind’Amour to a two-year AHL deal in April. He soon could be reassigned to the Checkers, although he could earn a little more time in Florida’s training camp.
“He’s very appreciative to have this opportunity,” Rod Brind’Amour said. “For ‘Mo’ (Maurice) that was a class move. It’s something we’ll all cherish, Skyler for sure.”