At long, long last, the day has finally arrived.
Tonight, the Carolina Hurricanes become the 28th NHL team to participate in an outdoor game. Twice postponed by the Covid-19 pandemic, hotly pursued from day one of Tom Dundon’s ownership after he bought the team in 2018, and anxiously awaited by every Hurricanes fan for years — decades, even — tonight the league’s spotlight shines on the Hurricanes in a way it hasn’t in many, many years.
Put another way, it’s taken an awful long time for the Hurricanes to travel 3.5 football fields to the southeast and play a game on the field that’s been the team’s neighbor since October of 1999.
There are four NHL clubs participating in outdoor games this season. That Pittsburgh and Boston are two of those four comes as no surprise. Nor does tonight’s opponent, the Washington Capitals. But the fourth? It’s not the Rangers, or the Red Wings, or the NHL’s patron saint of outdoor games, the Chicago Blackhawks. It isn’t the Sabres, or the Maple Leafs, or the Flyers.
It’s the Carolina Hurricanes.
Believe me, it’s just as weird to type as it is to read.
All those years ago, the Hurricanes’ marketing tagline was “Here to Play, Here to Stay”. At the time, it seemed more hopeful than declarative. After all, in those early years the team quite literally couldn’t give away tickets for people to come watch them play. But maybe it was more forward thinking than we gave them credit for at the time, whether intentional or not.
Tonight’s the night they cash out that IOU. A previous generation had Game 7 as its historical touchstone. Tonight, this generation plants its own flag, and the long delayed dream is finally made real.
Let’s take it outside.
- OK, let’s get the formalities out of the way, because this is still at its heart a meaningful regular-season matchup between two rivals: the Canes and Capitals are meeting for the second time in five days. Carolina won the Tuesday matchup in the District 3-2 on the strength of goals from Brent Burns, Stefan Noesen and Paul Stastny, plus a 34-save performance from Frederik Andersen.
- Beyond that, the Hurricanes are looking to record a bit of history: only once in the history of the franchise have they swept the Caps in a season series. That was in 1990-91, when they were in different divisions. It’s never happened — or even come close to happening — in the Canes’ 25 seasons in North Carolina.
- But to do that, they’ll have to overcome some mojo on the opposing bench: the Capitals are one of only two teams to have an unbeaten record while participating in at least three outdoor games. They last played outside five years ago at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where they beat the Leafs 5-2.
Storm Advisory: #StadiumSeries edition
- Did you know that professional hockey in Raleigh actually dates to the early days of Reynolds Coliseum? It’s true — and this article, a must-read by resident N.C. State athletics historian Tim Peeler, takes a deep dive into the hidden history of hockey in the City of Oaks.
- Seth Jarvis, fresh off his first career NHL hat trick, is blogging this weekend’s festivities at NHL.com.
- Someone spent way too much time cataloging all of these:
Is this thing on?— NHL (@NHL) February 17, 2023
The @Canes' #StadiumSeries pregame antics are going to be fun.
Watch the 2023 @NavyFederal NHL #StadiumSeries TOMORROW at 8p ET on @ABCNetwork, @ESPNPlus, @Sportsnet, and @TVASports! pic.twitter.com/MnTN8jIU2u
- We’ll close the preview with the words of Scott Dupree, who in his role as the head of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance has seen plenty of big events come through here over the years: “By any measurement or definition in Raleigh, it’s one of the biggest events we’ve ever hosted.” [WRAL]
The time has finally arrived. As a certain Whalers coach turned TV commentator is rather fond of saying, go have fun out there.