RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The thought of a Carolina Hurricanes game without John Forslund's voice narrating the action is unthinkable for many Caniacs but looks to rapidly be approaching reality. The Canes' only play-by-play man since the team moved to North Carolina is now a free agent after his contract expired June 30 and he doesn't see a new deal with the franchise in the offing.
As Forslund told ABC11 via phone on Wednesday afternoon, "I don't want to just go off into the sunset, but today, I am."
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Those are jarring words to be sure. When I contacted team president Don Waddell, he said he still hopes to get something worked out with Forslund, mentioning that John's agent had requested a "few more days" to try and work something out.
"Tell me when we're going to play hockey again?!?" Waddell told me. The Hurricanes bottom line has already been affected immensely and there's no certainty anything's getting better ahead. He said if a deal to bring Forslund back doesn't get done, it'd be accurate to call it a coronavirus casualty.
That's not a good enough explanation for most Hurricanes fans, who view Forslund as an integral and irreplaceable part of the team, indeed part of the franchise's identity and connection with its fanbase. It's a fanbase that's "good, supportive and loyal" according to Waddell, but judging by social media reaction Wednesday, it's a fanbase that's also going to be very angry at this move.
For Forslund's part, he stressed that it's "not my wish" to move on from the Hurricanes and he "would never close the door on the Hurricanes, but I have to move forward."
There is oftentimes a Hail Mary in these kinds of negotiations, but to hear the tone of Forslund's voice on the phone Wednesday, it didn't sound like he thought one was coming this time. He already has many national assignments and is viewed as one of the elite hockey play-by-play men in the business, so you wouldn't expect Forslund to be a free agent for long. Moving on up is not where his heart is though.
"Since 1997 I've loved the fans and I've loved the Hurricanes. That will never change," he said.