2015 HHOF Induction Profile: Peter Karmanos Jr.

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The Hockey Hall of Fame is welcoming seven new members into its prestigious halls on Monday, November 9, 2015. Join us here at Last Word On Sports as we take an in-depth look at the new inductees. We continue our series with a man who joins the Hall under the builder category: Peter Karmanos Jr. 

2015 Hockey Hall of Fame Inductee: Peter Karmanos Jr.

Peter Karmanos Jr. came from humble beginnings, the son of Greek immigrants who owned a small restaurant in Detroit. Karmanos couldn’t even speak English when he started school, but he would eventually attend Wayne State University, and graduate in 1973.  Shortly after graduation, he would begin a computer software company called “Compuware” with a pair of partners.  The company would take off.  With the extra money, Karmanos would begin to invest in the true passion of his life, sports, and specifically hockey.

Compuware Detroit

In the early 70s Peter Karmanos would establish the Compuware Detroit minor hockey program.  With money spent on finding the best coaches in the area, in top notch facilities, and in doing everything first class, it would soon become one of the top hockey programs for youngsters in the area.   Not just for elite level athletes though, Compuware Detroit features levels all the way from Junior “A” all the way down to the recreational level, allowing children of all talent levels the opportunity to play hockey.

At the most elite levels, Compuware Detroit would continue to grow, to not only be amongst the best programs for minor hockey in the area, but one of the best minor hockey programs anywhere in the world.  The program would produce numerous national champions, over 200 players who would get NCAA Division 1 scholarships, and numerous NHLers including Pat LaFontaine, Mike Modano, Eric Lindros and Kevin Hatcher.

Junior Hockey

In 1989, Peter Karmanos was awarded an expansion team in the Ontario Hockey League.  His franchise, originally known as the Detroit Compuware Ambassadors, was the first OHL franchise in the United States.  The franchise would later become the Detroit Junior Red Wings, the Detroit Whalers, and eventually the Plymouth Whalers.

Beginning in 1991-92, the club would make the OHL playoffs in 23 consecutive seasons.  They would also win five straight OHL West division titles (1999–2003) and are one of only two OHL franchises to ever achieve that feat.  The Whalers would make the OHL finals in 2000 and 2001, but would fall short both times.  The franchise would finally get over the hump in 2007, winning the OHL Championship and J. Robertson Cup.

After 25 years of ownership, Karmanos sold the team to a new group, who moved the club to Flint, Michigan this year.

 

NHL Hartford & Carolina

Karmanos found his way into the big leagues, buying the Hartford Whalers in 1994.  However, he was always unhappy with having a franchise in the NHL’s smallest market, and after failing to reach minimum numbers of season ticket subscribers for the 1996-97 season; he moved the team to Carolina for the 1997-98 Campaign.

After early struggles in Greensboro, a new arena was built in Raleigh, and the Hurricanes franchise finally began to make headway in the area.  A run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2002 energized the fanbase, and despite a loss to the Detroit Red Wings, things appeared to be looking up.  However missing the playoffs the next two seasons, and the NHL lockout of 2004-05 seemed to hurt that momentum. Peter Karmanos Jr. stuck to the plan though, allowing his trusted GM and President Jim Rutherford to continue to build the team’s foundation. Part of that foundation would be using the 2003 third overall pick to select Eric Staal, a dynamic centre who would go on to become the face of the Carolina Hurricanes franchise over the next 12 years.

Things would look up when the lockout ended though, as the Hurricanes, led by Rod Brindamour, and Eric Staal would go on to be one of the NHL’s best teams, accumulating 112 points and winning the Southeast Division in 2005-06.  After going down 0-2 to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a rookie goaltender by the name of Cam Ward stepped in and the Hurricanes would take the next four games to win the series.  The club would never look back as they took home the Stanley Cup following an emotional game seven victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

ECHL

Karmanos purchased an ECHL franchise in 1998.  He also purchased the Germain Arena in Estero, Florida; and moved his franchise there. Looking for a new jersey and name, Karmanos came up with a blue/green/white color scheme, and christened the club the Florida Everblades.

The Everblades have enjoyed a successful run in Southwest Florida including three appearances in the Kelly Cup Finals, winning the league in 2012.

In 2013, following Karmanos retirement from Compuware, he decided to sell the team to simplify his hockey holdings.

Legacy

Karmanos has built a hockey empire, with success at every level, from his elite level minor hockey teams, to the Ontario Hockey League, the ECHL and the NHL, he has won at every level.  On top of this, he has brought the game to numerous youngsters in both the Michigan and Carolina areas, and helped in the game’s growth in his over forty years in hockey.

Peter Karmanos Jr. was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to hockey in the United States after the 1997-98 season. He received the OHL’s Bill Long Award in 2010, in recognition for his outstanding contributions to the league.

Outside of hockey, Karmanos is well known for his philanthropic interests, including numerous generous donations aimed at helping to find a cure for cancer.

 

Main Photo:

Main Photo Caption: TORONTO, ON – NOVEMBER 08: Peter Karmanos Jr. (l) receives his Hockey Hall of Fame blazer from the Chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame Lanny McDonald prior to the Legends Classic game on November 8, 2015 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Hall induction ceremony is slated for November 9. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)