05/13/09 — Dougherty becomes fan of hockey again

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Dougherty becomes fan of hockey again

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on May 13, 2009 1:47 PM

Messenger Sports Writer

RALEIGH -- Most traditional fans would not classify the state of North Carolina as a hockey hot spot.

John Dougherty says otherwise.

The former Southern Wayne student has spent the last season working in the Carolina Hurricanes' media relations office. During his internship, he's seen a side of the game that few fans ever get to experience.

"It's great," said Dougherty. "I never thought that I would get into professional hockey. There are times where I feel like just another intern ... when I am making copies or running statistics to the press box, but other times I see the game going on and I think about being part of the organization."

Dougherty, a junior at the University of North Carolina, learned about the Hurricanes' internship while surfing a list-serve on the campus' Website.

"This internship isn't really anything I would have sought out, but I got a message about it in my school email," said Dougherty. "Being a journalism major I didn't really have any experience in hockey, but I explained at my interview how much it would mean to me and how I thought I was well-rounded enough to handle it."

Dougherty grew up following the Philadelphia Flyers.

And he's certainly experienced the ups and downs around the RBC Center this season. The emotion the players feel on the ice carries over into the front office and trickles down to the staff.

Carolina's early-season slump made for a long work day.

"At one point it looked like we were a long shot for the playoffs, and it was tough to be upbeat around the arena," said Dougherty. "But when it turned around and we won nine games in a row, and made a strong playoff run, everyone was ecstatic."

Dougherty has discovered a new-found appreciation for professional sports. His day-to-day involvement with coaches and players has broadened his spectrum of just how effort is put into running a quality National Hockey League franchise.

He sees players getting extra ice time, extended weight-lifting sessions and hears about executives spending hours agonizing over statistics. No one takes a day off during the season.

"That's the biggest downside to being involved with a professional team," said Dougherty. "You are away from your family a lot and the hours get very long, but at the end of the day it's certainly worth it."

The players' dedication immediately drew Dougherty's attention on his first day with the Hurricanes.

"When I was a kid, Rod Brind'Amour was a Flyer and he became one of my favorite players," said Dougherty. "And now that I get to see how hard he works every day with the Canes, it's impossible not to root for a guy like that."

Aside from his childhood idol, Dougherty has also learned to enjoy watching the European style of play. Three Finish-born players -- Jussi Jokinen, Tuomo Ruutu and Joni Pitkanen -- have been an integral part of Carolina's success this season.

The trio reminds Dougherty of himself in some ways.

"They are really gritty and they go out every night and get the job done," said Dougherty. "I never played hockey as kid, but I would like to think that's the kind of player I would have been."

Once he graduates from UNC, Dougherty plans to pursue a career in either journalism or public relations. The Wayne County native hopes he'll remain involved in professional sports.