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The Hurricanes Taking Carolina by Storm Playing before huge home crowds, Kevin Weekes has pumped up fans and teammates with his sterling performance in goal

May 13, 2002
May 13, 2002

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May 13, 2002

The Hurricanes Taking Carolina by Storm Playing before huge home crowds, Kevin Weekes has pumped up fans and teammates with his sterling performance in goal

Until recently North Carolina's Research Triangle was considered a
Bermuda Triangle for hockey, but if the NHL fever that has hit
the area keeps up, ACC will soon stand for Ah'm Cup Crazy. The
Carolina Hurricanes have turned into contenders, playing before
tail-gatin', pom-pom-wavin', ref-trashin', roof-raisin' new
believers and in front of an unlikely goalie, Kevin Weekes. Other
warm-weather cities are turning into NHL ciphers, but hockey (or
ICE HOCKEY as a jump headline in The News & Observer of Raleigh
thoughtfully clarified for its readers) seemed to take root in
the Triangle as Carolina and the Montreal Canadiens split the
first two games of an Eastern Conference semifinal series that a
clever sign maker in the crowd of 18,809 last Friday labeled
Y'ALL VS EH. The cheers for the Hurricanes might not reverberate
up and down Tobacco Road, the most exotic prospective route yet
for a Stanley Cup parade, but the playoff energy that gripped the
Entertainment and Sports Arena last week was fresh, fun and
almost collegiate.

This is an article from the May 13, 2002 issue Original Layout

Game 1 against Montreal--which has won more Stanley Cups (24) than
Carolina has had regular-season sellouts (23) in its three years
in Raleigh (after the franchise relocated from Hartford in 1997
it played two years in Greensboro before its new arena was
built)--drew a record crowd, and Game 2 was another sellout. After
the Hurricanes failed to fill their arena for a home game against
the New Jersey Devils in Round 1, a team executive explained that
the match was played on Wednesday, which is a big church night in
the area. Consider that on April 29 in Montreal a sequestered
jury, which was deliberating for the fifth day in the
double-murder trial of Hell's Angels leader Maurice (Mom)
Boucher, was given the evening off so it could watch the
Canadiens polish off the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of the first
round.

On Sunday that jury convicted Boucher, but the jury is still out
on Weekes, one of the NHL's two black goaltenders. In a 2-0 Game
1 victory against Montreal he gave up some worrisome rebounds
that drew more attention than his impressive playoff shutout
streak. That streak reached 143 minutes, 55 seconds before a
rebound undermined Weekes 7:25 into Game 2; he let the puck drop
and relaxed in anticipation of a whistle blowing the play dead,
but then looked like a man laying an egg as the puck squirted out
and the Canadiens' Saku Koivu whipped it past him. Montreal went
on to put three pucks by Weekes on its first eight shots as the
Canadiens rolled to a 4-1 win despite being outshot 46-16.

Until that game, Weekes had turned in consecutive playoff
shutouts and stopped 132 of 136 postseason shots. The fans in
North Carolina know a zero when they see it--consider the scorn
being heaped upon Hornets owners George Shinn and Ray Woolridge
three hours down the road in Charlotte (page 66)--and have
showered Weekes with cheers and unfurled banners in homage to
Shady 80. (The nickname was hung on Weekes by a minor league
teammate as a comment on the goalie's quiet, almost furtive ways
and the number 80 jersey he wears.) The 27-year-old Weekes, who
has already been the goalie of the future for four other NHL
teams, may be the netminder of the present. (Veteran Arturs Irbe
played well in the first two games of the Hurricanes' series
against the Devils but fell apart in Games 3 and 4, giving Weekes
the chance to shine.)

For years there has been a reality and a perception about Weekes.
The reality is that four clubs tired of him even though he was a
young goalie with good lateral movement, but the perception
lingers that he's a star in waiting. Part of the reason is that
for a netminder who has played on some bad teams, he has not
exactly been traded for six broken sticks and an equipment bag.
In January 1999 Weekes and defenseman Ed Jovanovski were dealt by
the Florida Panthers (who had drafted Weekes in the second round
six years earlier) for sniper Pavel Bure; in December '99 Weekes
was moved to the New York Islanders in a package for outstanding
goaltender Felix Potvin; in June 2000 Weekes was traded to Tampa
Bay for a first-round draft choice; and two months ago he was
acquired by Carolina for wing Shane Willis, a rookie-of-the-year
finalist in 2000-01.

Despite all this shuffling, Weekes never doubted himself. He
views his whistle-stop tour of Florida-Vancouver-New
York-Tampa Bay-Carolina with an almost quizzical detachment, as
if the poor records of most of those teams had only a tangential
relationship to his performance. "If you are watching the game,
you'll see I've played well," Weekes says. "That's what it's all
about."

Weekes, who grew up in a Metro Toronto area called Scarborough
(which produced another black NHL player, Edmonton Oilers wing
Anson Carter), darts in and out of profundities with a
distinctive baritone, in more control of his thoughts than of his
rebounds. To some teammates, his brimming confidence has crossed
the line into arrogance. Weekes rejects the idea. He calls
himself an island person--his parents, Carl and Vadney, emigrated
from Barbados--who prizes humility along with hard work. He says
he aspires to the loftiness of "a Patrick Roy, a Dominik Hasek, a
Vladislav Tretiak, so why then be complacent and want to mirror
the career of [perennial backup] Craig Billington?"

In Vancouver, Weekes clashed with coach Marc Crawford and goalie
consultant Andy Moog over his reluctance to play unless he felt
100% physically. This became a sticking point in 1999 when the
Canucks were forced to scramble for a stopgap goaltender because
Weekes said he had an injured right knee even though team doctors
contended that MRIs revealed no damage. Last Saturday as he sat
on a couch at the Hurricanes' practice facility, Weekes rolled up
his right pants leg and showed a reporter two small scars on his
kneecap from the arthroscopic surgery he had in the summer of
2000. "After I got to the Islanders, the doctors asked if I had
had an MRI in Vancouver," Weekes says. "I told them I had two or
three. 'With what?' they asked, 'Polaroids?'"

Conflicting medical opinions are plausible, certainly more so
than the story Weekes told the Canucks as explanation for his
late arrival to a game on Dec. 2, 1999. According to Weekes, as
he was leaving a dry cleaner a man came up to him and asked, "Are
you Kevin Weekes?" Weekes said he was. The man instructed Weekes
to follow in his car, which Weekes did. The man stopped his car
near an alley; Weekes did too. Weekes said the man then robbed
him. Less than a month later Weekes was shipped out for Potvin.
When asked about the incident last Saturday, Weekes said, "I
don't want to make an issue of it. I didn't want to make an issue
of it then."

In Carolina he has been a model goalie, his itinerant days
seemingly finished when Hurricanes general manager Jim
Rutherford acquired him in March and boldly restructured
Carolina's goaltending even as the team chased a playoff spot.
Maybe Weekes ultimately will save the second round against
Montreal as he did the first round against New Jersey, although
clearly not every day in the Triangle is 80 in the shade.

COLOR PHOTO: LOU CAPOZZOLA Buttheads After shutting out Montreal, Kevin Weekes (left) got his noggin rocked by Carolina teammate Kevyn Adams. [T of C]THREE COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY LOU CAPOZZOLA Southern comfort Carolina sold out Games 1 and 2 against the Canadiens, winning the first on Weekes's shutout.
To some of his teammates, Weekes's brimming confidence has
crossed the line into arrogance.