Cam Ward has had a lot of special moments and memories in PNC Arena.
But never one quite like the one Friday night, when the Carolina Hurricanes goalie had his son on the ice with him.
In his many years with the Canes, Ward has won a Stanley Cup. Been given the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Played in an NHL All-Star game in the arena. Made some spectacular saves.
But the sight of seeing Nolan Ward, 7, skating out before the game against the New York Islanders, joining him for the playing of the national anthem, was an emotional one for Ward.
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“It was a moment he and I will always remember,” Ward said Saturday. “I was kind of hoping it would happen before my playing days were over, so it’s nice to check that box off. That was really cool for both of us.”
The Hurricanes select a Youth Starter of the Game before each home game, and that player usually lines up next to the five Canes skaters in the starting lineup. But Cam Ward and Nolan Ward stood side by side in the north crease, father and son in front of the net.
“I was bit concerned about him chickening out at the last second,” Ward joked. “Of course he’s nervous. It’s a little overwhelming for a 7-year-old. But he did great and hopefully we got some good pictures that we can share for a lifetime.”
Nolan Ward plays youth hockey for the Ice Dragons team, Cam Ward said, and naturally is a goalie. And wears No. 30, his dad’s number.
“He obviously likes to get stuck in the net,” Ward said. “I can’t get him out of the net to work on all of his skills.”
Cam Ward authored a moving first-person story on his son for The Players Tribune in July 2016. Titled “The Bravest Guy I Know,” it tells of how Nolan was born deaf and has cochlear implants, a medical device in the inner ear to send sound signals to the brain — the surgery first performed when Nolan was 9 1-2 months old, then for the other ear when he was 5.
As Ward wrote, he and wife Cody were “willing to try any technology that could help our child hear us tell him that we loved him.”
All is well these days. Nolan Ward is a budding goalie. Dad is trying to help the Hurricanes reach the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Ward and the Canes were beaten 3-0 by the Islanders, whose third goal was an empty-net score. That’s the only thing that marred the night for Cam and Nolan, who bumped gloves before Nolan left the ice and Dad went to work.
“We want to make sure he had a special moment but at the same time it’s not my first rodeo and I needed to focus on the game,” Ward said.
And after the game?
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“He didn’t say much at first. I think he was still a bit overwhelmed,” Ward said. “This morning, after the fact, he said it was one of the coolest things he’s ever done and something he’ll always remember.”