FIVE MONTHS after doctors diagnosed him with multiple sclerosis and less than 24 hours after announcing his impending retirement, Hurricanes forward Bryan Bickell closed out his career in storybook fashion. Tabbed to lead off the shootout in Carolina's finale on Sunday in Philadelphia, the 31-year-old fourth-liner (66 career goals) ripped a wrister past Flyers goalie Anthony Stolarz. In a normal game, it would have been a meaningless moment between two lottery-bound clubs. Instead, even players on Philly's bench offered Bickell fist-bumps.
A three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Blackhawks, Bickell had been receiving treatments and regaining his strength in the minors before rejoining the Hurricanes for their final four games. The day before his emotional curtain call, Bickell attended Walk MS: Triangle, which raises money for MS research. To his surprise, all the Hurricanes showed up at the event outside PNC Arena dressed in T-shirts with his number, 29, on the back. Across the chest, the shirts read, BICKELLBRAVE.