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.)