For over a decade, Eric Staal was the face of the Carolina Hurricanes franchise. On Thursday, Staal did his best to hold back the tears while the former Hurricanes captain was honored by his former team with a video tribute in his first game back in Carolina since his trade to the New York Rangers last month.
Staal had been Carolina’s captain for six years at the time of February’s trade, having assumed the role as the Hurricanes’ undisputed leader upon the retirements of Rod Brind’Amour and Ron Francis.
Originally drafted second overall by the Hurricanes in the 2003 NHL Draft, Staal is all-time leader in goals (322), assists (453), points (775) and games played (909) for the Hurricanes since the franchise’s relocation from Hartford to North Carolina in 1997. He led the team in scoring in eight of his 11 seasons in a Hurricanes uniform and in the playoffs during the team’s run to its only Stanley Cup championship in 2005–06.
Staal’s parents, Henry and Linda, were also in attendance as their oldest son struggled to fight back tears during the video tribute.
Two of his brothers, Marc of the Rangers and Jordan of the Hurricanes, were seen banging their sticks in tribute as Eric was treated to a lengthy standing ovation by the PNC Arena crowd.
The Hurricanes rallied back in the third period to beat the Rangers, 4–3.