Today we continue and conclude counting down each of our staff member’s top five games, which we started last week.
There are some obvious choices, and some less so that have personal meaning. Let’s dive in:
1. 2019 First Round vs. Capitals Game 7
A game I expect to make an appearance on pretty much everyone’s list, watching game seven against the Capitals last year is one of the most enjoyable sports watching experiences I have ever had. Watching the excitement of Brock McGinn’s double-overtime heroics were made even better by the atmosphere of the absolutely packed Players’ Retreat I watched the game at with some close friends.
This is a game that every Hurricanes fan will remember for the rest of their lives, an instant classic that eased some of the pain of the lengthy playoff drought that preceded it. It was of course even sweeter that the big win came over the Caps.
The obvious favorite game of any Hurricanes fan is the one that won Carolina its Stanley Cup, a 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers in 2006. For me, I had moved to North Carolina from Singapore just a month before, and I vividly remember watching the entire series from a hotel room as my family waited to move into our home.
I hadn’t watched much hockey before these playoffs, but I had learned to enjoy the game thanks to EA Sports. Needless to say, my new hometown team winning its first Stanley Cup mere weeks after I moved to the state solidified my fanhood for the years to come.
3. 2019 First Round vs. Capitals Game 4
This one is a personal favorite specifically to me, as it’s the only Hurricanes postseason game I’ve been lucky enough to see in person. I was our secondary Hurricanes writer at Technician, the student newspaper at NC State, and I was blessed to have the opportunity to cover this game as a member of the media.
As for the game, Warren Foegele brought the energy from the opening puck drop, scoring just 17 seconds into the game. Teuvo Teravainen netted the game winner in the final minute of the second period, evening the series at 2-2. The atmosphere in PNC Arena that night was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, and it’s something I won’t forget.
4. 2009 First Round vs. Devils Game 7
The Hurricanes have a knack for winning exciting game sevens, and 2009 against the Devils was no different. Down one with less than a minute and a half to play, Jussi Jokinen and Eric Staal made sure Carolina’s first playoff appearance since winning the Cup didn’t come to an early exit.
It’s one of the most exciting finishes to a hockey game you could imagine, and one that reminded Carolina fans how exciting playoff hockey could be. Of course game four of the same series gave that reminder as well, but there’s not many things in sports better than exciting game seven finishes.
5. 3/30/2017 2-1 overtime win over Columbus
This is a very random addition to my five favorite Hurricanes games, but it’s a game I remember really well and enjoyed a ton. It was my second year as a student at NC State, and I had started to attend Canes games much more frequently. This particular game sticks out to me. Jeff Skinner scored the game-tying goal late in the third period, deflecting a shot off a defender’s skate. Noah Hanifin netted the game winner in OT, scoring after a great move to the net from Skinner.
The game moved Carolina’s point streak to 13 games, and it kept some hopes of making the playoffs intact. Obviously the season didn’t end well for the Canes, but this eventually inconsequential game was a really fun one to be at.
1. Hurricanes vs. Devils, 2019, Canes clinch playoff spot - Finally, it was over. 10 years of heartbreak, unfulfilled potential, Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown, etc. The 2018-19 team was special, and on this night, it secured its ticket back to the NHL’s promised land.
After the pain of the 10-year drought, I’ll never forget the energy in the building that night, and the catharsis of knowing it was all over. Getting to cover this game for Technician was definitely my favorite moment as a sports writer.
2. Hurricanes vs. Capitals Game Seven, 2019 - I was with Alec at the aforementioned gathering at Player’s Retreat. I remember being struck by the massive crowd at an NC State campus bar, clad in Canes gear and going nuts every time the team scored. This, more than anything, showed me that last year’s team put Raleigh back on the hockey map, and captured the hearts and minds of the city once more.
I’d never had a more nerve-wracking experience watching a game before my beloved Kansas City Chiefs’ run to the Super Bowl this year, and I’ll never forget the euphoric excitement and release of tension when Brock McGinn sent the Hurricanes to the second round.
3. Hurricanes vs. Capitals Game Four, 2019 - This is the only Hurricanes playoff game I’ve attended as a fan. My brother got me a pair of tickets as a graduation gift last year. I ended up going to the game with my good friend Camden Speight.
Attending a Hurricanes playoff game in the stands had always been on my bucket list, and it did not disappoint. The building was rocking from puck drop, to Warren Foegele’s goal in the first minute, to the final buzzer. Getting to my first Hurricanes playoff game was more than worth the wait.
4. Hurricanes vs. Penguins, 2009, Canes clinch playoff spot - The importance of this game to my journey as a sports fan, and, ultimately, sports journalist, can’t be overstated. I was in sixth grade for this game. Growing up, I remember going to games with my family and watching on TV, but was never really “into it”. We always went to the discount “Rex Nights” for Rex Hospital employees, which my Dad was, and this game was one of those.
There was something about this one that just got me in. The Canes and Penguins battled back and forth to overtime, where Anton Babchuk won it to send the Canes to the playoffs. Something about the game, the energy in the building, the polite heckling of Penguins fans going back to the parking lot, just got me hooked. I watched every playoff game that year, and was in it for the long haul. Everyone has their “it” game that gets them fully invested in a team, sport or sports in general. This one was mine.
5. Hurricanes vs. Canadiens, 2013, New Year’s Eve - This game was absolute insanity. The Canes played perhaps the worst I’d ever seen them the first two periods, and trailed 3-0 going into the third period. Then, all hell broke loose (in a good way). Jeff Skinner scored twice in the opening minutes of the period and before you could blink, Eric Staal had tied it and Manny Malhotra had given the Hurricanes the lead.
PK Subban tied the game before Alex Semin won it in overtime. The Canes have always filled up New Year’s Eve games, and PNC was rocking that night. I went to the game with one of my best friends from high school that I always shared season tickets with, and this was probably my favorite game of the playoff drought.
Honorable Mention: Checkers vs. Admirals, 2013, PNC Arena - This one is not a Canes game, but it had a very Canes-like flavor. Prior to the 2012-13 season, it was announced the Charlotte Checkers would play a January game at PNC Arena. It turned out to be the first game of the season at PNC, as an NHL lockout wiped out the season’s first half.
I remember buying tickets to this game, and looking forward to it for months as the lockout ticked by, and thinking it might be the only hockey I saw that year. In a happy coincidence, this game ended up being the day the tortuous lockout ended. I went to this game with my Grandpa, and the Checkers won what ended up being a celebration of the return of hockey and what was to come. The playing of a Canes montage with an announcement from then-PA announcer Brian Hoyle that the league and NHLPA had reached an agreement, and the crowd’s reaction, is an underrated PNC Arena moment.
1. Devils vs Hurricanes 4/4/20 - I can honestly say I have only shed a tear at a sporting event one time and it was in the final 10 seconds of this game. To my left was my friend Jonathan, a college buddy who follows the team as closely as I do. To my right, my lovely wife who can scream louder than me at any given event. Jonathan was checking his phone constantly as we were trying to get the results of the Montreal game. Service was subpar at best. But then the NHL app updated. Montreal lost. The Hurricanes were up 3-1 with seconds to go. I yelled, hugged both of them around their necks, squatted down and felt a tear roll down my cheek. I missed the final seconds of the game but it didn’t matter, the Canes were in the playoffs!
10 years I waited for that moment. I majored in Sports Management in school and the Hurricanes were one of the reasons I did that. Watching them suffer year after year, supporting them loyally no matter what. I went through the pain and agony that every other Caniac did. All of that was washed away on this night. That is why this is my top Hurricanes game ever.
PS: My wife still to this day gives me crap for the fact that I “cried” at this game but not at our wedding :) “
2. Capitals vs Hurricanes Game Three 4/15/19 - The final two games on my list are neck and neck and this one doesn’t happen without the other one. After waiting a decade for playoff hockey in Raleigh, it was finally back. I’m not much of a tailgater myself but we made sure to get there early for this one. We roamed the parking lot before the game taking it all in. Then when it came time for the action I remember PNC Arena being so loud I literally could not hear the siren going on. What a moment. The game was great too because the Hurricanes destroyed the Capitals to put themselves back into the series. But that moment, at the start of the game when everyone was cheering so loud, that is something I will never forget.
3. Hurricanes vs Golden Knights 2/8/20 -This one is pretty random. The game was a crazy game capped off by Justin Williams sealing the comeback victory in a shootout. This game is special to me because it was the first and only game I have been to on the road. My wife and I had been wanting to go to Las Vegas and when the schedule came out for this season and the away game was on a Saturday night in Vegas, we knew we had to go. Roaming the streets of Vegas that day there was Hurricanes gear everywhere. Unknown to me before the game, the Hurricanes had flown hundreds of STM’s out to Vegas to support the team on the road so we had a mini-army of red and black roaming around Las Vegas.
We chatted with Don Waddell outside T-Mobile Arena before the game, took in the atmosphere, stood on the glass next to some showgirls for warmups, and then got to witness one of the best games of the entire season in person. While I didn’t say it during the game, I will say it now. To the only slightly inebriated girl sitting beside us who made it a point to scream at a very high pitch in to my ear every time Vegas touched the puck and also made it a point to try to define what a high-stick is in my ear, all I can finally say to you is Bless Your Heart because we got the last laugh that night.
4. Flyers vs Hurricanes 2/18/11 - A 3-2 victory over the Flyers would not normally crack a top five list. But this night was not just a game, in fact the game itself is meaningless in terms of why this date is on my list. 2/18/11 was the night that Rod Brind’ Amour’s number 17 went to the rafters. I was there in section 334 with my best friend soaking in that memorable speech by The Captain. I know the Canes won the game but I can’t tell you who scored without looking it up. The only thing I do remember about the actual game was when the shot counter hit 17-17 and they showed it on the big screen during stoppage. Everything that night was about Rod and it remains one of my fondest Hurricanes memories.
5. Devils vs Hurricanes 1/6/09 - I remember this game well. This was my very first Hurricanes game that I got to go to in person. My sister bought tickets for us to go to this game as a Christmas present and I remember how excited I was when I opened that gift. Not too familiar with Raleigh at the time, we got there early and stumbled upon Buffalo Brothers (now one of my Raleigh staples) as a place to eat before the game. Ray Whitney, Sergei Samsonov, and Tuomo Ruutu all scored for the Canes as they got a 3-2 victory over their future first round opponent.
1. 2006 Stanley Cup Final Game 7 - Nothing is better than a game seven final in any sport. But nothing worse is when YOUR team is playing in a game seven in a final. The Canes came out strong with a 2-0 lead and didn’t look back. It was just a perfect game that the Canes were not going to lose. It all culminated with Rod Brind’Amour ripping the cup out of Gary Bettman’s hands.
2. 2019 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 7 in Washington 2OT - This game was the best finish to any Canes Playoff game. The game was even better live enjoying it with my brother, who is a Caps fan. The entire building going silent and hearing the cheers of the Canes on the ice and the contingent of fans in the building was great. We quickly left but not before randomly hugging a lot of Canes fans in the concourse.
3. 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 7 against the Devils (down by one, 2 goals in last two minutes to win) - This was the most insane game from the 2009 run that had so many crazy finishes. There was the Jussi Jokinen goal with .2 seconds left, an overtime win, and back-to-back shutouts. However, game seven takes the cake. The Devils lead by one goal with possibly the best goalie of all time, Martin Brodeur, in net. The Canes down by one goal with two minutes remaining scored TWO goals from Jokinen and Eric Staal to clinch the series.
4. 2019 We’re In - The catharsis after 10 long and frustrating years of missing the playoffs. There were coaches, GMs, and trades that just never seemed to get the team over the hump in a system that rewards mediocre teams with loser points to help make playoff races closer. The Canes missed out in many different ways, but now none of that matters.
5. 2006 Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 2 - This may seem like a weird game to add, but it was another insane finish. This ending has been seared into my memory since it happened. Scott Gomez scores with 20 seconds left to take a one-goal lead. In the ensuing play, there’s a battle behind the boards, the puck gets to Staal and he scores with three seconds left. The Canes go on to win in overtime with a GREAT Nic Wallin move to the net and win the game.