The accolades for the Raleigh hockey community are unanimous. Everyone connected to the event deserves to take a bow, not only for the smoothly run professional staging, but for the infectious energy of fun and celebration that seems to have breathed new life into the stale All-Star Game tradition. Even more so, those trite perceptions about hockey in the south are officially dead and buried. We had our shot to show the world of hockey what we got here, and we rocked them like a Hurricane.
Did you watch Eric Staal, the consummate "host with the most" with his remarkably sophisticated on and off-ice performance this weekend, speaking to Jeff Skinner after selecting him the draft Friday night? Video. Read his lips as he offered Jeff this advice while the Carolina fans roared in approval. "Soak it up, they love ya. Soak it up". Over at CanesNow, the Monday debate is asking fans to try and explain why Skinner is so adored here in Raleigh. It's obviously for a lot of reasons, many of which are hard to put into words. But is it perhaps partly because he seems so much like us? Passionate about and committed to the game of hockey, completely fun-loving, aware and a little nervous about finding our place as the "new kid" in the room of the storied history of the sport, and really, all we really can ask for is a chance to play.
So if this three-day weekend was our "Celebration of Hockey" hat trick, and those players, fans and media from around the world want to give us a huge cheer for the experience (many players describing their weekend as "a blast"), I say today is the day we can soak it up, Carolina. They love ya.
After the jump is the full retinue of stories and videos about this historic weekend in Carolina hockey. Soak it up.
From the Big Boys of Main Stream Media
This four-minute must see video from TSN's panel after the game with Pierre McGuire saying this was the best All-Star Weekend ever and he's been attending them since 1990: NHL : A Weekend to Remember - Was this the best All-Star Game experience ever? The NHL on TSN panel discusses this and more.
Here's the TSN video of players after the game. NHL : All-Star Post Game Reaction including the presser where Eric Staal and Cam Ward talk about how important it was to them to showcase hockey in Carolina, and how proud they were of the fans for coming through in full glory. It was the first time I realized how much Ward and Staal personally do not appreciate how Carolina hockey fans are portrayed in traditional hockey markets (recall Stall's diss on Toronto when making Kessel the last man standing). I believe it was a top priority to them that they do everything they could to change that perception permanently, a very effective way of thanking us for what we fans do for them.
"The fans, once again, were tremendous," Ward said. "I think it's great for the players and fans who came in from out of town to see how hockey is down here in the South. I think they're going to go home with a different perspective on Raleigh. We're blessed that we get to play here every day."
I haven't seen this whole thing anywhere on the Canes or NHL site so here's an "amateur"capture of the full press conference that you need to see. If I see the official one, I'll replace it.
Sport Illustrated's Michael Farber added his praise for the hockey culture in Carolina. Venue will go down as biggest star of NHL's All-Star weekend as we stared down the challenges with a smile. (Again, who does that remind you of?)
But the Triangle region of North Carolina faced the challenges of holding an All-Star game -- the diffuse nature of the area, the distance of the arena from the modest Raleigh downtown -- and stared them down with a smile..... There is no better place in hockey in the United States than Carolina deep in the playoffs
Damien Cox: Carolina breathes new life into all-star game - thestar.com
It might have been the year they saved the NHL All-Star Game.
My 10 favorite moments of the All-Star weekend, USA Today's Kevin Allen
3. Raleigh News and Observer columnist Luke Decock and gracious Carolina captain Eric Staal sharing a lighthearted moment when Decock jokingly asked in a news conference whether he could talk about "his failure of leadership" in allowing his team to blow a 4-0 lead. Staal went along wiith the humor, saying "we got complacent and I will take the brunt of it."
2011 NHL All-Star Game: Maybe it's time us media types lighten up about All-Star Weekend - ESPN with postgame video from Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun. They were shocked at the buzz in Raleigh.
"I think [people] were probably surprised with the response that the community had given this event," said Eric Staal, captain of the losing squad Sunday. "I think for us we felt the energy, the buildup coming into this weekend. It was being around the community, talking about it. The fans have been excited, and then they delivered.
"It was awesome. I'm very proud of our fans and how they showed their support for this event and came out in throngs and were tailgating and doing all the things we know they do," Staal added. "It was exciting to be just a part of it with them and enjoy the whole experience."
A couple late adds that Mike Sundheim linked up with even more great tweets and other player and media quotes on the weekend. Guy Behind the Guy: All-Star Market: All-Star Weekend in the Triangle went beyond expectations for many of those who came to the Raleigh area for the NHL's mid-season celebration.
The Sun Belt shines bright on All-Star weekend - Craig Custance - Sporting News
This is what it looks like when it works. The Hurricanes are the perfect picture of a hockey franchise taking root in a nontraditional market and flourishing into an institution that feels like it has been here forever.
All-Star Game: The Fix is On - Adrian Dater for Versus
But the game was great because of the genuinely friendly people here, and the first-class way the event has been presented by all involved. I know I sound like a member of the Raleigh chamber of commerce here, but it's true: Raleigh is officially a real hockey town now in my book.
Raleigh fields a winner - Luke DeCock - NewsObserver.com DeCock, who has been watching this market develop from the get go, was aware (and also maybe in awe) of what happened this weekend. Here's a couple excerpts of his piece in the N&O today.
"The base of hockey fans is so strong, and they're so passionate," Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara said. "I know how loud they can be from playing in the playoffs here. It was pretty loud, and they're pretty supportive of the team. Hosting the All-Star Game, they took it up another level."
It was interesting to hear Staal and Ward talk, over and over again, about how proud they were of the way Raleigh had embraced the event. Here you had two Canadians in their mid-20s, living here only by a quirk of the draft, speaking as if they'd grown up and gone to school here, unsure as anyone whether hockey would be able to put down permanent roots - and taking a tremendous amount of satisfaction in the fact that it had.
Photos to keep you busy all afternoon. First look gallery from Sunday from the NewsObserver.com | Canes 310 images
Word from the top and official host this weekend: Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos defends 'Sunbelt' hockey - Nicholas Cotsonika, Yahoo! Sports Karmanos bites back at the Canadian media, saying the Hurricanes are proving that hockey can fly in the south.
This has potential to be a bit of a buzzkill because these men in suits are so dry, but listen to Peter Karmanos' pride in his club and this city: Gary Bettman and Peter Karmanos Interview Video - NHL VideoCenter
Interesting (thought lengthy) video from Adrian Dater: Raleigh Caniacs - Versus from the tailgate Saturday talking about the evolution of Carolina hockey over the 14 seasons.
From the Blogs:
Late Add - and must read: Photo Expedition: Puck Daddy's 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend, Vol. 2 which closes with:
There have been lots of stories written about Raleigh's hockey renaissance and how the fans supported the event last weekend. But that's playing catch-up: The Carolina Hurricanes have had rabid support for years, although it doesn't always show up in the attendance figures or the national TV ratings.
The Cole's Knoll crew has been at it for years. The fans rocking Brind'Amour and Francis jerseys have been at it for years. It's almost a shame that it takes an All-Star Game for that dedicated to get recognized.
But the fans in Raleigh didn't mind. They welcomed out of-towners with open arms. They welcomed local media that only shows up on the playoffs with wide smiles.... From Skinnermania to Team Staal, they made this work.
ESPN America Blogs " Aaron Murphy’s ‘Murph on Ice’ The Hurricanes have a loyal following of very knowledgeable fans, and the organization’s class was on display during the opening ceremonies tonight.
What We Learned: So help me, I loved NHL All-Star weekend - Puck Daddy We've actually won over Ryan Lambert (aka twolinepass). Yes, indeedy.
All-Star Weekend Roundup: Why Making Noise is Better Than Making Memories " Puck The Media
All said, there was a buzz about the National Hockey League’s mid-season celebration. A genuine one for the first time in years. That’s much more important than the game being a barn-burning classic that we’ll revel in the memories of for decades to come. The fact is, something started here. Something that can be improved on, and something that – maybe, in the future – can lead us towards making this event worthwhile once again.
Red Light District: Raleigh brought its 'A-game'
Hockey works in the Sun Belt (contrary to popular belief) and this weekend further proved it. ‘Canes fans came out in droves for every event, dominating the spotlight. There weren’t as many fans from other NHL fan bases at the game as I had expected, because of the rowdy Caniacs.
All-Star Game is more about smiles and cheers than shots and saves | The Independent
This weekend provided the Triangle its opportunity to show its love affair with hockey to an international audience. And the Triangle took hockey in its arms and sucked face for three solid days.
And here's the link to LTD's Flickr All Star weekend page which I'm sure will continue to balloon all week.
Finally some tweets that the media sent out as they headed out last night
- Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch: @SunGarrioch People of Raleigh can take a bow. Great all star weekend, embraced the event and nice people. Ottawa has its work cut out for them.
- Kevin Weekes: @KevinWeekes BIG success this All Star was ! On the hockey fans in NC I'll quote Biggie " If you don't know,now you know" - take a bow NC ,great job!
- Matt Duchene: @Matt9Duchene What a great weekend in Raleigh. Great job by the NHL and the Hurricanes organization. Thank you!
- Frank Seravalli, Philadelphia Daily News: @DNFlyers Thank you, Raleigh, for an unbelieveable weekend. I think this weekend changed the opinion of many about hockey in the South. Well done!
- Double [re-]tweeter from ESPN's Pierre LeBrun and the Los Angeles Times Helene Elliot: @Real_ESPNLeBrun I will second that RT @helenenothelen: Thanks, Raleigh and the Carolina Hurricanes. Great hospitality for the All-Star Game. Well done!