This is part 2 of 2 for Thanksgiving on what I am thankful for as a Hurricanes hockey fan.
I hope to write about Ryan Murphy’s trip to Charlotte and put up my usual game preview tomorrow to get back on the more traditional hockey topics.
First, let me clearly say that this is not intended to tell anyone else what they should be thankful for or that they should be thankful at all. I realize that many people may have joined on as Hurricanes hockey fans after some of the franchise’s great times. And even those who did experience some of the great runs, it is not for me to say if that is enough or how long that should override some of the team’s recent struggles.
Rather, this is just my personal view of what I am thankful for in terms of Hurricanes hockey.
Just having NHL hockey and a pro franchise in Raleigh
At the most basic level, I greatly appreciate the fact that we have NHL hockey or any major league professional sports franchise in Raleigh at all. There is nothing wrong with being a college sports area, but I love the idea of having 1 team that the entire area could rally around and it truly did for the playoff runs. As the thirty-fourth largest metropolitan area in the United States, the Raleigh-Durham area is not a must-have NHL market. My quick count has 9 northern metropolitan areas and 6 southern metropolitan areas that are bigger than the Raleigh-Durham area population-wise that do not have NHL teams. I feel incredibly fortunate.
The team’s relationship with the community
There will always be something to grumble about in terms of ticket prices, personnel decisions, etc. but on the whole, I think the team has sincerely joined the hockey community. The access that season ticket holders have to players via events is tremendous relative to most markets that have a much greater wall separating the professional athletes from the people.
The suffering is relative
I am as impatient as anyone about getting back to the playoffs, but I also realize that relatively speaking, we Canes fans have been incredibly lucky so far. Right now, only 6 teams have won a Stanley Cup Championship more recently than the Carolina Hurricanes. It is astounding the think that there are actually 12 teams that have never won a Stanley Cup. In addition to the teams that have never won the Cup, there are 7 more that have not won it since the Hurricanes moved to North Carolina. There are only 10 teams that have seen the Stanley Cup Finals more than once since the Hurricanes arrived in North Carolina, and the Canes are of course 1 of those teams. I realize that there have been more gaps than consistency, but in terms of simply making it to and winning the games that really matter, the Hurricanes score very well for their short history.
I have received more than my fair share of special moments/memories
At the end of the day, I think what makes being a Carolina Hurricanes fan special is the incredible volume of truly special memories courtesy of a few tremendous playoff runs. The loss in game 6 of the first round of the 2002 playoffs is still 1 of my favorite games. The 2002 playoffs featured a crazy collection of thrilling victories, many in overtime, in addition to the establishment of ‘how we do hockey’ in North Carolina with tailgating and airport receptions. The 2006 playoff run obviously ended with a magical night, but not to be lost is the volume that preceded that night. And though the 2009 playoff run was the shortest of the 3 big ones, 2 underdog series wins in game 7 on the road in overtime easily made that entire season special.
In the end it is about the ride and who you are riding with
There is no doubt that being a Carolina Hurricanes fan has been a rollercoaster ride, and I do not deny that there have been more downs than ups in the past couple years. But for me, the ride is all part of it and something to be appreciated. It is what makes winning so fun. And not to be underestimated in all of it is the time spent and the relationships built around my ‘hockey family.’ Hockey family is different for everyone. In many cases, it is actual family and/or close friends, but it is also the broader Hurricanes community itself. There are so many people who I have never met in person who I consider part of my unique version of family (whether they like it or not) in the hockey sense. It is sharing the wonderful times with this family that makes them even more special and in a strange way I think it is actually commiserating with the same people during down times that makes the family what it is.
Here is hoping that we get back to the playoffs soon and are rewarded with another great playoff run. But if not, I still appreciate that we even have a team, have enough wonderful memories to tide me over and also appreciation for the people part of it that actually gets stronger with a little bit of adversity.