The transition to a bigger North American stage and audience

With Boston’s win over Columbus on Monday night, the Hurricanes lead up to the Eastern Conference Finals has officially begun. We are two game sevens out West away from having only four teams remaining in the NHL playoffs. There are exactly zero teams from Canada and really only Boston and possibly St. Louis and/or Colorado as traditional hockey markets. The result is that a mass of hockey media will descend on Raleigh over the next couple weeks both physically to attend Eastern Conference Finals games but maybe even more significantly attention-wise. The attention and presence that is on the way will generate a different environment and have both pros and cons. What follows is an attempt to help make some sense of that for the Caniac faithful.


The Caniac’s guide to optimal usage of hockey energy

Since this has the potential to become long and ‘rambly’, let me be kind and put a couple key points right up front.

First and foremost, everyone should be a Canes fan in the way that works best for them. That is the theme of what follows but importantly also applies to my well-intentioned opinions and advice. Encouraging, friendly input can be helpful, but at the end of the day, you should do your Hurricanes hockey fandom in your own way. 

Second, our hockey team and our hockey community does not need to defend itself from some of the BS that gets spewed in our direction each and ever time the Hurricanes reach a level where those who normally do not care to give the Hurricanes any attention are forced to do so. Since the very beginning, our hockey community has done NHL hockey in our own unique way. Just the same as anything else in life, those who are accepting an open-minded will be fine with that. And those who are not accepting will be judgmental (often over the craziest things) out of jealousy, insecurity or just some random negative attitude.


Third and importantly, please always remember that the majority of the broader NHL community are good and decent people. The thing that I hate most about what happens this time of year is when people get their feathers rankled by a few bad people and then go on a rampage indiscriminately attacking both bad people who maybe deserve it but also in the process many good people who do not. Give all other hockey people a fair chance to be a decent person and most will be.

Fourth, ENJOY THIS. Whether you are a fan who unfortunately joined during the extended drought, a fan from the beginning 20 years ago or someone who just found Hurricanes hockey two weeks ago, just revel in how cool it is that the Hurricanes are one of only four teams still competing for the Stanley Cup. Enjoying this is partly an attitude, but in this age of social media for many it can also require discipline. So if you get enjoyment out of defending the Hurricanes on social media and/or jousting verbally with the contingent that wants to argue, then have at it. But if this is a negative thing for you as it is for many, just say no. (See #2 where I said we do not need to justify ourselves.) There are so many wonderful things to invest energy in hockey-wise right now. Choose those.


Random other notes on the transition to the broader North American stage

The mixed bag of deserved attention, unwanted attention and the learning curve

With only four teams remaining, the biggest change will simply be the volume of coverage. After a decade of being (somewhat deservedly at times) ignored by the broader NHL media, the Hurricanes are suddenly a thing. A positive of this will be the volume of coverage that Hurricanes fans will be able to find covering their beloved team (might just take the rest of the playoffs off :-)).

The downside is that the added coverage will be a decidedly mixed bag. Some portion of it will be completely negative just because in the Don Cherry vein. And much of it will be some combination of superficial and/or uninformed. The Carolina Hurricanes only very recently became a thing in the 2018-19 season and the 2019 NHL Playoffs. As such, many who paid little attention to the Hurricanes during most of the 2018-19 season have been working on a 7-10-day crash course to get up to speed. I do not track baseball closely these days, but I guess with the internet I could get up to speed on the Chicago Cubs in a week or so and write articles about them if asked to do so.

One huge positive for me is the amount of space given to the local media that track the team closely. There is no NCAA basketball to compete against. The Hurricanes are the top story and that makes room for the local media who do track the team year-round through good times and bad to provide more local coverage. Brian LeBlanc and the team from Canes Country, Adam Gold at 99.9 The Fan, Cory Lavalette at North State Journal, Mark Armstrong at ABC-11, Chip Alexander and Luke DeCock at the News & Observer among others will all be front and center for the rest of the Hurricanes’ season. The result is more and more casual fans or non-fans intentionally or unintentionally tracking the team right now which is obviously a huge positive for continuing to grow the fan base.

Timing is also perfect with Sara Civian from The Athletic in her first year covering the team locally. Having traveled with the team regularly during the season, she is as close to the team as anyone in the media and does have all of the context that led up to where this team is today. Her coverage for the rest of the 2019 playoffs will be worth every penny of the cost of a subscription to The Athletic.

So yes, there is will be some sorting to do in terms of media coverage especially with the broader NHL coverage, but the volume of attention and content that the Hurricanes will receive will be at record levels and overall is a big positive.


My one pet peeve

As noted above, the extra coverage is mostly a positive. And the deserved credit that some of the underrated Hurricanes players will receive is a positive. But the nails on the chalk board for me personally is the volume of Twitter comments that suddenly declare Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Sebastian Aho, etc. to be good players (which is accurate and well-deserved) but too often do so with a tone that suggests that this is an original thought or new brilliant revelation from a writer who thinks he/she was the first to figure this out. I think it is the sometimes condescending tone that is the nails on the chalkboard for me.


Canes versus dinosaurs

And then beyond the numerous regular media entries, there is the battle of hockey future against hockey past.

Shortly after the Bruins defeated the Blue Jackets to move into the Eastern Conference Finals, I Tweeted the following:

Don Cherry and his role with the Carolina Hurricanes marketing team is already well-known. But in adding Boston as an opponent for the Eastern Conference Finals, also added was Bruins TV announcer Jack Edwards. Edwards will invariably spend the entire series taking direct and indirect shots at former-Bruin Dougie Hamilton around whatever other randomness.

As I said on Twitter, I find the Don Cherry/Canes connection to be absolutely fascinating. As long as the Hurricanes are still in the playoffs, the two will be bitter enemies in the headlines…and there will continue to be headlines. But that is exactly the point. The two are an absolute perfect pair in a professional wrestling rivals/enemies kind of way. Both sides benefit from the attention. The Twitter version of my thoughts from yesterday follow:


The next few weeks should be whirlwind of activity with the Hurricanes suddenly receiving so much attention. Find your fun part of all if it and spend your energy on that!


Go Canes!




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