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Chopper Harrison dead at 59

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Chopper Harrison, left, with Rod Brind'Amour, one of his favorite Canes. Courtesy of the Brind'Amour family

David Martin, the former 96 Rock radio DJ known as Chopper Harrison, died Tuesday night in his home. He was 59.

Martin, who spent five years as the morning host on WBBB-96.1, was best known for his relentless support of the Carolina Hurricanes, who arrived in the Triangle only one year before Martin hit the airwaves here. He was the team’s most vocal and visible fan at a time when it was struggling to find a foothold in this market, and many players and coaches from that era repaid his support by helping him as his health declined.

In 2001, he slept on the roof of the arena to support a ticket campaign designed to bring the NHL All-Star Game to Raleigh. (It finally happened in 2011.) In addition to bringing players and coaches onto his show as guests both before and after the run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2002, he became an on-ice intermission host for the team.

“Those were the halcyon days of the organization,” Ken Lehner, the team’s director of marketing at that time, said earlier this year. “We went from the cellar to the pinnacle. The ride was incredibly exciting. Many people deserve credit -- the players, coaches, front office, all that. But in terms of the connection with the community and fans, nobody deserves any more credit than Chopper does.”

Born in Fargo, N.D., Martin attended Arizona State University and worked at radio stations in San Antonio, Tex., Houston, Denver, Philadelphia and St. Paul, Minn., before coming to North Carolina in 1999. After he was fired by Curtis Media in 2004, he returned to Minnesota, but came back to the Triangle after he was diagnosed with cancer in February 2009.

“The last time I saw him was three or four weeks ago,” said Jan Chamblee, a Raleigh firefighter who befriended and helped Martin over the past few months. “He was clear-headed and working on a book of memoirs. I was pleased to see the state he was in.”

(For more on Chopper, read my story from January.)

Audios:
96 Rock's Foster remembers Chopper Harrison

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Dave Martin

Back in the 70's Dave was active in the Fargo area with a radio station called KVOX 1280 am. His radio name at the time was "Alex Rais'n Cane" he had the grave yard shift. At the time I owned a night Club in the area and Dave would work for me and then after the bar closed would go do his show. We had a few late night parties at the radio station and I think there must have been a ton of empty beer cans on the roof. Dave was a great guy and friend for many years. On the way home from my night club I used to tune in to his show and he would be playing a special tune for my wife and I. We lived 50 miles out and usually he would be playing Asleep At The Wheel. In 1981 we meet up with Dave when he was in Phoenix and we flew to Maui for a week. I lost track of "Alex" as alot of his Fargo friends call him. in the late 80's but through a mutual friend and broadcaster I usually knew where he was. A sad ending to a nice guy. Rest In Peace Dave Martin, AKA Alex, AKA Chopper.

I admit to ribbing...

on Chopper in the later years, particularly when he became the on-ice intermission host, but I completely agree that he was a significant force in awakening the community to the Hurricanes when they first arrived in Raleigh. I always looked forward to his radio show because despite not being a sports talk program, you could always count on there being Hurricanes news and interviews. The visibility he brought to the team in it's most formative years was invaluable.

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About the blogger

Luke has worked for The N&O since 2000. He covered the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a sports columnist in August 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. He can be reached at (919) 829-8947, @LukeDeCock on Twitter or luke.decock@newsobserver.com.
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