Living in the here and now, I am thankful that when I sit down for Thanksgiving dinner that the Carolina Hurricanes will be tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference (using games above .500 which I think is legitimately the best way to account for games in hand). There are no guarantees, and there is work still to be done, but where the Hurricanes are right now in the 2017-18 season is something for which we should be thankful.
But when I think about what I am thankful for as a Carolina Hurricanes hockey fan, I mostly think bigger picture which leads me to three things.
The fact that we have NHL hockey at all
During the season, being a fan of NHL hockey can be a roller coaster ride up and down. But at the beginning of each new Carolina Hurricanes season, I always take time to appreciate that we have an NHL hockey team at all.
The circumstances by which the team arrived here are unique. There was none of the recruiting, buildup, anticipation or usual activity around a professional sports team moving to a new place. Rather, the Hurricanes just seemed to parachute into North Carolina out of nowhere.
The timing could not have been better for me personally. As a transplanted Midwesterner, I had been in North Carolina for five years in 1997. That was long enough to grow an appreciation for all of the things that make living here great, but I was still in the process of making North Carolina my home and collecting ‘my stuff.’ As a kid who grew up in Indiana and graduated from Indiana University, I loved ACC basketball and especially the ACC Tourney (the Big Ten did not have one yet), but I would always be cream and crimson in terms of basketball allegiance.
Then out of nowhere the Hurricanes arrived, and seized the chance to have a local team and appreciated the opportunity to join on from the beginning. To this day, I cannot believe how fortunate we are to have NHL hockey in Raleigh.
Tremendous rewards for being a fan
I sometimes feel horrible for newer Canes fans who have only known playoff misses. As a fan who adopted the team when it moved here in 1997, the rewards for being a fan have been immense. No doubt, a good memory is required, but the rewards are very clearly there.
First, I can honestly say that since moving to Raleigh that each and every one of the team’s four trips to the playoffs was downright magical.
The 2000-01 run was short at only six games, but I think the comeback that the team made that year was the genesis of the special relationship that the team has always had with its fan base. To this day, the game six loss is the single most special game I have ever attended in which I saw my team lose.
The 2001-02 run all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals was at least as exhilarating as the Stanley Cup run for me and is what put NHL hockey on the map in North Carolina.
Obviously the Stanley Cup championship in 2005-06 was the pinnacle of Hurricanes hockey. The vision of Justin Williams scoring the empty net goal to clinch it and leaping into the boards and Rod Brind’Amour hoisting the Stanley Cup will be forever etched in my brain.
And holding true to Hurricanes playoff form, the playoffs for the 2008-09 season were incredibly fun. The two wild game 7 finishes and late night trips to the airport were the highlights of what was another fun playoff run.
The Carolina Hurricanes hockey community
Perhaps because it is a smaller market or perhaps because of the team’s unique history, I have always felt like I was a part of something as a Carolina Hurricanes fan more than any other team that I had rooted for in the past. Be it message boards from the early 2000s, people who supported me when I started writing at HockeyBuzz, a couple different ticket groups, the growing community at Canes and Coffee or just informal chats with Canes fans here, there and everywhere, I think the community surrounding Carolina Hurricanes hockey is something that is unique and special. I am thankful that I am able to be a part of it.
Rather than putting up a separate Coffee Shop post today, I encourage people who find a few minutes for Canes hockey in between family, friends and food to share what they are thankful about as a Carolina Hurricanes fan in the comments here.