If you are not into my occasional long, rambling stories, I suggest you take a holiday break from Canes and Coffee or hop to the preview for today’s game against Montreal. 🙂
The long rambling story of my Caniac fandom
Thanksgiving Day is obviously a day to express thankfulness for all that we have. Many things rank much higher than professional sports and the Carolina Hurricanes, but for me and others our beloved hockey team is a significant part of our lives.
When I think about my Carolina Hurricanes fandom, I could make a laundry list of specific things that I am thankful for including winning the Stanley Cup or course, the other deep playoff runs and other specific events.
But for me it is much simpler. I am just tremendously thankful that we have a professional hockey team at all in Raleigh, North Carolina of all places.
I moved to North Carolina from the Midwest as a wide-eyed kid straight out of college in the early 1990s. As someone who grew up a sports fan in the Chicago area, I packed a complete set of sports teams with me when I moved here. And with most of those teams deeply ingrained in my childhood, I was not going to just swap a few out upon moving to a new place. So upon moving here, I immediately immersed myself in local college basketball. UNC/Duke/NCSU very much felt like Indiana/Purdue from back home, and I ranked trying to watch 24 hours of basketball in about 36 hours during the first 2 days of the NCAA tourney as 1 of the best things in sports. And with the Big Ten still stubbornly receiving to do a conference tourney, the concept of the ACC Tourney as a lead in the week before to the NCAA tourney was fresh and fun. And as someone who grew up with access only to nearby major league baseball, the Durham Bulls still in their old stadium were wonderful find especially with the ties to their namesake movie that is a favorite of mine. And along the way I also happened upon the Raleigh Ice Caps. For me, the Ice Caps were 1 part sports and 1 part wild entertainment sort of from the same category as professional wrestling or the roller derby. I still miss Friday night’s at ‘the potato chip’ also known as Dorton Arena.
But despite embracing the local sports from my new home, I really did not have a team. I rooted for the Ice Caps and Durham Bulls, but for me minor league sports have always been about a when there/attendance experience and not so much something I tracked on a day-by-day basis. And though I immediately adopted ACC basketball for TV viewing, none of those teams were ever going to replace my alma mater, Indiana University which is also a school steeped in rich basketball tradition.
But lo and behold, right about when I was realizing that North Carolina was a place that I was not just stopping in but wanted to make my home for forever, the Carolina Hurricanes seemingly fell out of the sky and into the local sports scene. It could not have been more perfect. As a child, had you asked me who my favorite hockey team was, I would have said the Blackhawks simply because they were part of the collection of other Chicago teams that I pulled for. But hockey was an afterthought, and I really was not an NHL fan growing up. The pecking order of sports in my house had me rotating between basketball, baseball and football depending on the season, and the lack of visibility of the Blackhawks on TV did not help.
So to adopt the Hurricanes as my favorite NHL team did not require me to part with or reconcile some other deeply embedded allegiance. It was a new thing altogether and a new hobby. In the very beginning, it was more about a conscious effort to follow the team and try to like it than any kind of innate passion for the sport or the team. To this day Chuck Kaiton’s voice brings back fond memories of tracking the team game-by-game partly on the radio when the team’s TV broadcast schedule was much less than 82 games as I was learning to like the team and the sport. And Kaiton’s Corner during the intermission was a must listen to see if sometimes I could pick up something new about the sport that I was falling in love with. I became enamored with my new local team quickly, was soon tracking the team daily and found my way to a few message boards with kindred souls who were also immersed in Hurricanes hockey. I still miss the days back at the old News & Observer Hurricanes message board and other local message boards from the early 2000s.
Then my ‘foreverness’ as a Hurricanes fan was cemented between the winter of 2001 and the summer of 2002 when the team made its first 2 trips to the NHL playoffs after moving to Raleigh. (Remember that the team’s first playoff appearance in North Carolina was still in the Greensboro days.) The intensity and exhilaration of playoff hockey and the tremendous fun of the 2002 playoff run actually rival the 2006 Stanley Cup run and win for me. Despite growing up a sports fan and attending at least a few big time events, the exhilaration of NHL playoff hockey was exhilarating and as good as anything I had experienced in person as a sports fan. After the 2002 playoff run, I was officially hooked forever as a lifelong Carolina Hurricanes fan.
Personally thankful for what I have experienced
Even in tougher times as a Hurricanes fan like we have seen in recent years, I still remember the fun of 2002 and of course 2006 and 2009 as well, and I am still incredibly thankful at a much simpler level that I have a local NHL hockey team that I can call mine from the beginning.
Thankful for Hurricanes hockey’s role in my family
As my life has evolved, I am also incredibly thankful for Hurricanes hockey as part of my family, especially my relationship with my sons. When I started as a Hurricanes fan, I was married but without children, but along the way Canes hockey has become part of a bond and fabric of our family. With my wife and I, all 3 of my sons attended Canes games in car seats before regularly bumbling around with mini sticks in diapers near the open area by the John Deere tractor on the third level to burn off energy so they could sit through the next period. Eventually my sons grew old enough to understand what was happening on the ice and are now ‘big kids’ who have grown up with Hurricanes hockey, understand the game, know the team and its history and desperately wish for a return to the playoffs.
Thankful for Canes and Coffee’s small role in broader Hurricanes community
I am also incredibly thankful for the small role that Canes and Coffee has in our absolutely wonderful Hurricanes hockey community. Times have been tougher during the recent down swing, but the core of the Hurricanes fan base is incredibly strong and devoted and the foundation upon which the next upturn will be built. I am incredibly thankful that some Canes fans spend some of their hockey time reading my ramblings and also that wonderful writers like Jordan Futrell, Cory Fogg and Andrew Schnittker, web developers like Rob Sherwood and Drago Bratic and a professional photographer like Jamie Kellner are willing to invest their talent and energy in Canes and Coffee.
On this holiday, I hope you too can find reasons to be thankful for the place that Hurricanes hockey has in your life.
What are you thankful for as a Carolina Hurricanes hockey fan?