Let Carolina Be Carolina

The Carolina Hurricanes might just be the most fun team in the NHL right now. Their polarising post-game celebrations have been both lauded and lambasted in equal measure. The formerly-relevant pundit Don Cherry said “these guys to me are jerks” during his Coach’s Corner segment. A statement that Hurricanes and their fans have embraced.

The Canes’ antics divided Carl, Joel and Nick in episode #219 but fans are united. Cherry’s comments are being immortalised, but not for the reasons that he imagined. The fun police did not turn up at the PNC Arena:

You can buy “Bunch of jerks” t-shirts on the team’s online store and the team’s own twitter bio has even been proudly updated.

Carolina gets a hard time as it consistently fails to fill seats in Raleigh, a situation not helped by the team’s inability to make the playoffs. 2009 was the last time that the Hurricanes reached the post-season. Despite some good trades since, the team hasn’t really rebuilt in the traditional sense, and nobody looks at the Canes as a cup contender, even though they’re currently just one point outside of the playoffs.

The Canes are doing something to promote the team, show me a team that doesn’t. Sure, Carolina is doing something different, but I’ll take what they’re doing over this garish nightmare any day.

Adding post-game celebrations is showboating, but is that a bad thing? Yes, they’re cheesy, awkward and cringeworthy but they are also fun and the Canes’ faithful have embraced them as their own. There are also a lot more column inches being dedicated to Carolina than their has been for a long time. People are curious about this little team from NC. Whether or not this will help fill seats is unclear, but also unlikely. What this has done though is added to the team’s identity and shown that it’s okay to have a laugh sometimes.

Haters, traditionally, will hate. But ploys like this aren’t for the dyed-in-the-wool old guard fans. They’re for the kids, for the next generation of fans, those who don’t want to see ice hockey as a game played by rich men in expensive suits and boy-band hair cuts. The Canes have made a statement by sticking two fingers up at the stuffy establishment and said “let’s play good hockey and have some fun”. The hockey has been mostly good too, sure they ain’t winning the Stanley Cup this season, but they’re also no Ottawa Senators.

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If you were to tell me that my Detroit Red Wings were going to do something similar, I’d cringe, because it is a bit like watching your drunk dad dancing at a wedding. But I also know that my kids would love it, and that will always get my seal of approval. Buying a ticket for a hockey game isn’t just about the 60 minutes, it’s about the whole experience. The music, the lights, the mascots, the camaraderie, the weak beer and expensive hot-dogs. It all counts.

Don Cherry’s words, intended to berate, have in-fact galvanised the Carolina fans and given them quite literally a banner to wave. Never change, Carolina. Maybe more teams will take notice and inject a little more fun into their game experiences.

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