The Hurricanes brought the Carolinas their first professional championship.
And the Carolinas brought the franchise their first hockey championship.
This has been one heck of a ride for the Hurricanes. This was formerly the Hartford Whalers. The Whalers were the equivalent of the Clippers in basketball; the Buccaneers in football; the Indians in baseball. Well, the Clips, Bucs and Indians have all changed their fortunes of late....and so did the Whalers.
In a much badly publicized move....in 1997 the Hartford Whalers left Connecticut and came south...to the Carolinas. It was a tough move since Hartford was dead smack in ESPN country, and the network used every chance they had to lobby for the team to stay put. But the team had missed the playoffs their last 5 years in Harford and had finished in either last or next-to-last place in 17 of their 18 NHL seasons [they were a decent WHA team from 1972-1979].
Not only did the team move from the northeast....but they moved to, North Carolina?? They played at Greensboro Coliseum for a couple of years before moving to Raleigh and the new arena built there. Raleigh didn't have a professional franchise and was best known for ACC basketball. The state really didn't support hockey. But it slowly built up a fan base. In 2002, the Canes went to the Stanley Cup Finals, losing to Detroit in 5 games. But their fan base grew. Not just in the Triangle, but across North Carolina. Heck, my mom started watching hockey then.
This just ain't hockey country. This is ACC hoops. This is Carolina-Duke. Or NC State. Or Wake. This is the NASCAR country. This is Carolina Panther Nation. This is Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats stomping grounds.
But it worked. The fans are excited. The arena is loud. And now the oldest trophy in North America will have "Carolina" written on it. And 2006 will be the year where the trophy, I'm sure, will get some run on Tobacco Road.
Congrats to the Hurricanes on their Stanley Cup win. You've made the Carolinas proud!
Cuba Gooding Jr at Game 7