Brind'Amour entering NHL elite

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

Rod Brind'Amour is an old man in hockey years, which might explain why he wasn't aware he is knocking on the door of an elite National Hockey League club.

Before the puck dropped on the opening faceoff of the Maple Leafs game against the Carolina Hurricanes last night at the Air Canada Centre, the 38-year-old needed just five points to move past Joe Nieuwendyk and Mike Bossy into sole possession of 50th place on the NHL's career points list.

"I heard someone say a while ago that I was closing in on (the top) 50, but I was not aware of it," the Hurricanes captain said. "It's a neat thing to think about, but I did not really know about it."

Brind'Amour, drafted ninth overall by the St. Louis Blues in 1988 and a regular in the NHL since breaking in with that team during the 1989 playoffs, had 1,122 points going into last night -- four less than Bossy and Leafs front-office member Nieuwendyk and one more than another member of the Leafs' front office, Darryl Sittler.

The points look good on paper, but they're really just a small part of what Brind'Amour brings to the Hurricanes. He long has been one of the top faceoff men in the league and the two-time Selke Trophy winner easily filled the leadership hole created when Ron Francis was traded to the Leafs four years ago.

"Roddy is the face of this team," goaltender Cam Ward said. "You know what you are getting with Rod Brind'Amour. When he stands up in the dressing room and says something, people listen to him. He has that presence, and respect from all of his teammates."

Former 'Canes coach Paul Maurice used to talk about how his job was made easier by Francis, and Peter Laviolette, who is less than six years older than Brind'Amour, is in a similar situation.

'A TRUE PRO'

"You really have to see him away from the rink," Laviolette said. "Everyone gets a visual snapshot of his game, but he's a true pro in every sense of the word, how he prepares himself, how he goes through conditioning, he never points fingers. There's more to it than what he does on the ice. He's the total package."

Yet Brind'Amour said he has not been satisfied with his season so far. He missed camp after having surgery on his left knee and at minus-9, had the worst plus-minus mark on his team prior to last night.

One gets the sense Brind'Amour will have to be dragged away from the game with his skates on.

"I don't care what job you do, nothing is better than what I do right now," he said. "The one good thing is I have never taken a day in this league for granted."

Brind'Amour was kept off the scoresheet in Carolina's 5-4 overtime win last night.


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