Peter Karmanos Jr. lauded by Hall for building game

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Peter Karmanos Jr. was a bit overwhelmed by his selection Monday to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Especially being a non-player, and being selected in the builders' category.

"Nobody could be more surprised and honored than people in the builder category because we don't have very good on ice statistics," said Karmanos with a chuckle, obviously enjoying the moment. "I am so honored and absoluately blown away by this."

The Hockey Hall of Fame defines a Builder as an individual who has contributed to the development of the game of hockey and moving the game forward.

Few have done so as Karmanos, 72, who founded Detroit-based software company Compuware and ultimately found his way into hockey.

Karmanos has been involved in hockey for 40 years, creating the Compuware Youth Hockey Program, a system that has produced 15 national championships, 34 state championships, sent 235 players to Division I hockey and produced 14 NHL first-round draft selections.

"It's been quite a ride, very interesting," Karmanos said. "The thing about being in youth hockey, when they grow up they grow up to be outstanding citizens and people."

Karmanos owned Ontario Hockey League franchises for over 30 years, in 1989 owning the first American-based OHL franchise in Plymouth. The Whalers won OHL titles in 1995 and 2007 and produced 18 NHL first-round draft picks.

Karmanos acquired the Hartford Whalers in 1994, and relocated the NHL team to Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1997, one of the first teams to venture into the Sun Belt. Carolina Hurricanes reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2002 — losing to his hometown Red Wings — and later winning the Stanley Cup in 2006.

"We were welcomed (in Raleigh) by people from all places, Toronto, Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago, they would show up wearing (those teams' jerseys)," Karmanos said. "The next time I would see them at the game, they would be wearing Hurricanes jerseys.

"It still is a lot of fun. We still have to work hard to bring fans into the building, but they are great, great hockey fans in the Sun Belt. We just need more of them, that's all."

Karmanos has earned a number of major awards during his career as a hockey builder, including the Lester Patrick Award (outstanding service to hockey in the U.S.), the Bill Long Award (outstanding contributions to the OHL) and the USA Hockey Distinguished Achievement Award.

He is also a member of the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame and the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

"Being included in the Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2015 ranks right up there with winning the Stanley Cup," Karmanos said. "Hockey has a special place in my heart. It is the greatest team sport, and I believe the greatest game a boy or girl could play.

"Giving more kids the chance to play at the highest levels has truly been a labor of love."

Peter Karmanos Jr. likens being elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame to winning the Stanley Cup, which his Carolina Hurricanes did in 2006.