While this season has been mostly full of bad news and disappointment, next year could very well be one for the ages for fans of the Carolina Hurricanes.
First of all, the team is expected to start the season off in Europe, most likely Helsinki, Finland. The news has not been 100% confirmed yet, but the Finns on the team are certainly looking forward to the possibility. I asked Jussi Jokinen about the opportunity and he said that he was very happy about it.
"This would be a once in a lifetime opportunity, we are very happy it looks like this might happen." When asked if he thought many friends or family would be in attendance, he laughed and replied, "Oh yes, as a matter of fact my mother has already gotten calls about getting tickets."
While playing a couple of games in Europe would be an exciting franchise first, there is also a good chance that the Hurricanes could be awarded the All Star Game. This would be a huge boon for the local area as well as for fans.
Last month, Jim Rutherford personally delivered a proposal to host the event at the league's office. Gary Bettman has said repeatedly that Carolina was due the classic, it was just a matter of the area having the infrastructure to support it. That time has come.
On January 22, Cory was one of the first to break the news about the Hurricanes possibly having an affiliate in Charlotte. While it was never confirmed by any of the head honchos, that possibility seems like a reality now. Management of the Charlotte Checkers is holding a press conference on Wednesday and it's widely expected they will make the official announcement at that time.
At long last, fans who enjoy watching the team's prospects will soon be able to follow them more closely and can even make a short drive to watch them in person if they want to. As we have advocated on this blog for years, this set up would be a win/win for fans and for the franchise.
If the Hurricanes continue to struggle on the ice this year, they will qualify for a high quality draft pick this summer. That will provide a major source of excitement all by itself. The team should have room on the roster for a high quality rookie next season and perhaps the franchise will have a player with a legitimate shot at winning the Calder Trophy.
The news has been pretty dire in Raleigh most of this season and now Cam Ward has joined the long list of wounded players. But while the next couple of months could be tedious ones for fans to get through, it looks like next year will be an unforgettable one, regardless how the team performs on the ice.
And at least one pundit is already looking for the Hurricanes to make a nice rebound. Anyway you look at it, happier days are just around the corner, Caniacs.