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A solid foundation

Superstars showcase community spirit

by Mike Sundheim 


When Cam Ward signed a six-year contract extension Sept. 30, there was another athlete at the press conference. This athlete wasn’t there to sign a long-term contract, but that didn’t mean that she wasn’t excited about the day’s big news. For Special Olympics athlete Judy Nutter, who was in the fourth row of media seating at the event, there was plenty to smile about.


These days, we see players Eric Staal and Cam Ward on just about everything that comes out of the Carolina Hurricanes’ offices at the RBC Center, from ticket stock to marketing pieces. For the second consecutive year, they’re on the front and back covers of the team’s media guide.


There’s obviously a method behind these choices. The center and goaltender — drafted in the first rounds in consecutive years by the team — now are officially signed through the 2015-2016 season. By that time, it’s expected that the franchise’s record books will have the names Staal and Ward at or near the top of almost every major category.


While having two cornerstone players wrapped up to stay in town for that long bodes well for the Hurricanes on the ice, seeing Judy at the press conference was a reminder of just how proud we can be to have these two men representing the organization.


I’ve never seen Staal turn down a child’s autograph request. Last year, he and his wife, Tanya, hosted 40 nonprofit children’s organizations in an all-inclusive luxury suite at the RBC Center, providing each child with gifts and a meet-and-greet after the game. This past summer, Staal donated 20 full sets of hockey equipment to the Capital City Crew, helping to establish the first NHL Diversity team in the South along with the Kids ‘N Community Foundation and the NHLPA’s Goals and Dreams Fund.


Cam Ward launched Cam’s Champs in 2006 as a way to reconnect locally with an organization he was involved with in Canada during his junior hockey days. Through the program, he and his wife, Cody, have committed to donate their time and money to Special Olympics North Carolina. Four seasons later, Cam’s Champs continues to be close to Ward’s heart; he hosts Special Olympics athletes in his suite at home games throughout the year. Between his own donations and fan contributions, Cam’s Champs has raised more than $30,000 for the organization over the past three seasons.


So for Judy Nutter — who congratulated Ward after the news conference — his long-term contract to stay in North Carolina was a very good thing. She was there to see a hero, although for her it wasn’t all about his highlight-reel saves or shutouts. Ward’s dedication to the community — like Staal’s — goes far beyond what he does for a living. The two stars’ personal commitments to the area, from how well they speak about North Carolina as their home to their charitable efforts, make them proud representatives for the Hurricanes and the Triangle.


And that’s something we all can feel good about. 


Mike Sundheim is director of media relations for the Carolina Hurricanes. Check out his blog on the team’s official Web site at For more information on Cam Ward’s Cam’s Champs program, visit