Born in Ottawa but raised in Campbell River, British Columbia, Brind'Amour began playing at a very young age, waddling around on double bladed skates and a stick. His father, who worked nights, would find ice time during the day for his son to skate around and shoot a puck. When he first entered the youth hockey system, he became a little like Carl Brewer, the star defenseman of the 1960s who retired every few years. Brind'Amour twice gave up the game, at age six and then again at seven, but each time after a few months of watching Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights he'd be back at it by Christmas.
Rod played defense at first, often against players who were older than him, and scouts from junior teams took notice even though he struggled for a year and a half in skates that were almost two sizes too large. (His father had bought him a used pair expecting that Rod would grow into them, but he never did.) At the tender age of 13, Brind'Amour was drafted by a junior team, the New Westminster Bruins.
His parents weren't thrilled with the idea of their teenaged son playing major junior hockey. They wanted Rod to stay in school, so they gave him a choice: He could continue to play in his home town or he could go to Notre Dame College the high school hockey factory in Wilcox, Saskatchewan, whose Hounds junior team had turned out such NHL notables as Russ Courtnall and Wendel Clark.
Brind'Amour chose Notre Dame, where the coaches moved him up to center to take advantage of his offensive skills. They even gave him a new pair of skates. Both changes helped Brind'Amour's game tremendously, and once he conquered his homesickness, he led the Hounds to the AAA midget title in 1986-87 and the Saskatchewan junior championship the next season. Prior to the 1988 draft, the NHL's scouting bureau ranked Brind'Amour as roughly the 20th-best prospect, but the St. Louis Blues were impressed by the forward's versatility and penchant for hard work and they made him the ninth overall choice.
Brind'Amour felt he wasn't yet ready for the NHL game and he opted to attend Michigan State University, a school that, like Notre Dame College, was known for the quality of its student athletes. He played one season, 1988-89, in the CCHA, earning rookie of the year honors with 59 points in 42 games. That spring the 19-year-old joined the Blues in time for their second round playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks, scoring a goal on his first shot in his first NHL game.
Although Brind'Amour's days in college hockey were over, he continued to attend Michigan State for several summers, studying business administration and marketing. His first full NHL season was a solid one, as he racked up 26 goals and 61 points and a plus-minus rating of plus 23.
A 1991 trade sent Brind'Amour to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers had made inquiries about him before and were told he was untouchable. But times had changed: While the Blues had always admired Brind'Amour's work ethic, they were now of the opinion he might be pushing himself too hard. The Flyers offered Ron Sutter in return, and the chance to reunite him with his twin brother Rich and older brother Brian, the Blues coach, was too tempting to pass up.
Brind'Amour scored more than 30 goals in each of his first three seasons with the Flyers, recording a career-high 37 goals in 1992-93 and a personal-best 97 points the next season. The Flyers missed the playoffs in all three years, so Brind'Amour played for Canada at the World Championships and was a member of the 1994 team that won Canada's first gold medal since 1961. He would also don the red and white jersey for Canada in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
After eliminating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1997 playoffs, the Flyers made a run to the Stanley Cup finals, where they were beaten by the Detroit Red Wings. Brind'Amour's 13 playoff goals tied him for the league lead with Colorado's Claude Lemieux and further entrenched his reputation as a big game performer.
On January 23, 2000, Flyer fans were shocked when the popular Brind'Amour was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes along with goaltending prospect Jean-Marc Pelletier for forward Keith Primeau. Brind'amour strong play continued in Carolina and was instumental in leading the Hurricanes to the 2002 Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings only to fall short losing in five games.
2002-03 was supposed to be a promising season in Carolina, however, a season ending hand injury to Brind'Amour and inconsistent play by the Hurricanes enabled them to repeat last seasons exploits. After a disappointing season in 2002-03, Brind'Amour returned to the Canes line-up in 2003-04 and although the club continued to struggle, Brind'Amour was able to reach the 900-point plateau for his career.
During the lockout of 2004-05 Brind'Amour spent two regular season games with Kloten of the Swiss League where he tallied 2 goals and an assist. In the Swiss League playoffs, he would appear in five games scoring 2 goals and 4 assists.
The NHL returned to action in 2005-06, as would Rod Brind'Amour who entered into his 6th season with the Hurricanes. The under-dog Hurricane team took the league by surprise finishing the regular season second in the Eastern Conference. That season Brind'Amour would capture the Franke J. Selke Trophy as the NHL's top defensive forward. The 2006 playoffs saw the Carolina Hurricanes sweep past the first two rounds before knocking off the feisty Buffalo Sabres in a seventh game thriller. The Carolina Hurricanes advanced to their second Stanley Cup Finals in franchise history this time facing off against the hard-hitting Edmonton Oilers. The exciting series went to seven games and in the favour of the Carolina Hurricanes who captured their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history. Brind'Amour led the team and the league in playoff points while he accomplished his boyhood dream of winning the Stanley Cup.
In the 2006-07 season, Brind'Amour returned to the 'Canes lineup for his 18th NHL season. That season, he ranked second on the team in points (82) and first in assists (56) and captured the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the league's top defensive forward.
In 2007-08 he would once again be named the NHL's premier defensive player and would record 51 points in 59 games.
June 30, 2010, Brind'Amour decided his playing days were over and officially announced his retirement.