Tuesday, May 23, 2006


The NHL returned this season after a year-long absence due to millionaire professional athletes and billionaire owners squabbling over money. Greedy aspects of sports aside, hockey has really returned with a bang this year. The league put a salary cap in place which levels the playing field for smaller market teams like Carolina. The league also changed the rules to cut out on the clutching and grabbing that had really slowed the game down in the years leading up to the lockout. The result was a fantastic product on the ice as the game is faster, scoring is up, and small market teams like Carolina, Buffalo and Edmonton are among the final four teams remaining in the playoffs.

Amy and I have definitely regained the hockey fever that captivated this area in 2002 when the Canes made an improbable run to the Stanley Cup finals. People drive around town with Hurricanes flags hanging off their cars. Sports radio is buzzing with hockey talk. Hockey in North Carolina has actually created an interesting dynamic in this area. The Triangle is a college sports mecca, especially with basketball. Allegiances run deep between the three schools that are separated by 20 miles -- North Carolina, NC State, and Duke. Yet hockey is the one thing that unites these fans. The college rivalries subside as people of all stripes throw on their Canes jerseys and head over to the RBC Center to tailgate before the games. It really is an exciting thing to be a part of as a fan.

Since we've had the boys Amy and I have not made it to many Canes games. In the pre-monster years we were part of a group that split season tickets so we got to see them a lot. These days we mostly watch the games on TV or listen to them on the radio. So Friday when they opened up practice before the conference finals with Buffalo, I ventured over to the RBC at lunchtime to catch a glimpse of the team. The Canes lost 3-2 on Saturday, but they won 4-3 last night to even the series. The series returns to Raleigh on Sunday, and I may try to scalp a ticket to catch that one.

Lastly, one thing they do on the big screen at Canes games when Carolina scores is show Ric Flair -- yes, the Nature Boy -- in a Canes jersey shouting, "That's another Carolina Hurricanes goal! Woooooooo!!!" The crowd goes nuts and screams along "Woooo! Wooowoooo!" I am working on the Ric Flair cheer with the boys. When we get that down you can bet that it will be posted here. ;-) For now, you can see the Nature Boy's version.

The RBC Center

The Canes shootaround. Being the goalie just getting peppered with slapshots has got to be a fun job -- pays well though.

Fan favorite Mike Commodore -- sans bathrobe -- in the back with his mop of red hair covered by his helmet. Fans show up to the games in red wigs and bathrobes (Commodore wears a Canes bathrobe postgame and often does interviews in it.)

21-year old Eric Stahl is the top goal scorer for the team and the most recognizable star.

Team captain Rod Brind'Amour has been around for a long time. His gritty play and leadership have carried the team deep into the playoffs.

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