I’m probably not alone in missing the other sports outside of college athletics that would otherwise be happening right now. I love and dearly miss Major League Baseball, and the NBA playoffs, and I miss the Carolina Hurricanes so much more than all of them.
Fox Sports has been replaying the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals this week, which has me in my feelings, and this great oral history on that team from Sara Civian at The Athletic did not help.
Here’s a snip from Bret Hedican (defenseman on the ‘06 team) about the atmosphere during that run:
It was awesome. What I loved about it is that there’s so many college families in that Raleigh area — some went to UNC, some went to NC State, etc. You have all of these different kind of fans with different allegiances, but what the Canes do to the Raleigh area is they bring every person together. They are all Carolina Hurricanes fans, and I love that. I love that about our town. I remember driving to the rink around 4, 4:30 in the afternoon before the game at a 7:30 puck drop and it’s packed already, they’re already tailgating. It’s a fun community to be a part of, I remember all my buddies coming into town during the 2002 run and I said, “You guys won’t believe it. Your minds are going to be blown when you come into town. And believe me, they couldn’t believe it.”
This Hurricanes run happened right after I graduated from State and I don’t think everybody understands how that hockey team was timed perfectly for its era.
This was still the Chuck Amato era at State, and just a few years after the entire fan base had discovered an enthusiasm for football and tailgating and everything that came with it. So that part was still a little bit new, and we could all respect and understand an upstart, so when that hockey season percolated, from a game-day perspective it was just, “sure, it’s Carter-Finley adjacent, we’ll do our thing.”
I had more fun at tailgates during that playoff run than I did during the prior football season (winning helps a lot, turns out), which was nice. But the other dynamic here was you had all these people who were used to being passionate and loud about sports all focused—from every direction—on this hockey team. Shit was wild.
It helped also that the rules had changed significantly post-lockout to favor a more fast-paced game, and the Hurricanes were designed perfectly for that. They pressed and they wore you out, not with defense, but with offense. They were pure adrenaline, an up-and-down revelation after years of dump-and-chase bullshit, so basically they were super easy to like, and ideally suited for a new hockey market.
I loved that team. Still do. Still miss this atmosphere. Anyway, feel free to share your memories from that season.