Imagine this for a second. For the past few weeks, your team in red and white has been playing better than anyone around. The team you follow is the talk of the town. No matter if you read the newspaper, listen to talk radio, or scour the internet, the only thing people want to talk about is your team! Now it is the day of the game. You walk to your seat at the RBC Center, wearing your red and white. You look around at the red and white crowd, which is foaming at the mouth ready for the game. Unfortunately, there are a few dozen brain-washed people who are wearing blue instead of red. You automatically shake your head and thank whomever taught you that red is good, and blue is the enemy. The national anthem is played and sung by hundreds of people around the arena. You look at the United States of America flag and are proud to be an American. When the anthem is finished, it is now GAMETIME!
Time for the start of North Carolina State vs. North Carolina, right?
No, I am referring to the Carolina Hurricanes vs. Edmonton Oilers. It is June 19, 2006 and it is Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The winner would be the world champion of hockey.
As everyone knows, the Hurricanes won that game 3-1 to win the Stanley Cup, the first in franchise history. That season, especially during the playoffs, cemented the reputation for the RBC Center being the loudest house in the NHL. There were several, if not most, games where you could barely speak to your friend in the next seat. Almost every night your ears would ring long after the game.
The 2009 playoff run to the Eastern Conference Finals ended too quickly for Canes fans, but it did however bring back many of the same memories to me from 2006 and the Stanley Cup Finals run in 2002. And although those memories are very good, part of it is sad.
With the start of the 2010 basketball season just days away and after going to my first hockey game of the year on Tuesday night, I started wondering about something.
As for all of the great memories in the RBC Center for hockey, where are all of the great memories in Wolfpack basketball?
Well, basically in can be summed up in one sentence. The teams have not been good enough and have not won enough to provoke such memories.
Sure, the Pack beat Georgia on a last second three-pointer to christen the arena in 1999, Anthony Grundy hit a last second shot to save us from humiliation to beat UNC-Greensboro, the 18 point comeback against Wake Forest, and a couple (unfortunately only a couple ) victories over Duke and UNC. But for many of us, we remember the losses from Drew Nicholas beating us at the buzzer, the 24 point humiliation to UNC in 2005, the infamous Chris Paul – Julius Hodge punch game, the Duke game where Mike Dunleavy scored more than our team did in the first half (including one 3 pointer made from Pittsboro), the 3 pointers by Hodge at the buzzer when we were down by 4, and many other close and heart wrenching, yet not unexpected, losses.
There is the argument that you can’t compare the atmosphere at NHL playoff games with regular season ACC games and that is a fair point. However, late in the regular season home games against the Rangers and Penguins with a playoff spot on the line were packed and loud. Late season home games for State basketball with nothing beyond an NIT bid on the line were half empty and dead.
But I have heard the question for years—Why do the Hurricanes have to also use the same arena as the Wolfpack? There are some State fans that despise hockey and want the hockey team to move. They are short sighted in their thinking. If they don’t like hockey, fine. But to think that the Wolfpack doesn’t get something from the success of the Hurricanes is completely naïve. The better the Hurricanes do, the larger the check from the Centennial Authority is written to NC State. The more the Hurricanes are on national television and the more they win in the playoffs, the more “face time” the Wolfpack get in areas where the NC State brand is not as strong.
You don’t need to look any further than Matt Hill, former NCAA golf champion at NC State. What was his main reason for coming here? It was that he could play golf all year at a good school that had a local NHL team he could watch.
Another benefit is the HD scoreboard installed in the RBC Center last year.
Folks at NC State have embraced their professional neighbors. Sidney Lowe was seen at most of the playoff games in 2009 wearing a Rod Brind’Amour jersey (sweater for the hockey aficionado). He was the special guest to start the Hurricane siren before at least one game that season.
Bill Cowher was also at several playoff games. He was the special guest to start the Hurricane siren at one game for each playoff series, including infuriating Pittsburgh
Penguins fans when he started it while wearing red. Both Tom O’Brien and Kellie Harper have been seen at playoff games. This year one of our favorite Wolfpackers of all-time, Julius Hodge, started the Hurricane siren.
Over the years, the “Let’s Go Canes” video has included Sidney Lowe, Tom O’Brien and the entire football team, David Thompson & Tommy Burleson, Bill Cowher, Kay Yow, Chuck Amato and our former AD, Lee Fowler.
And the Canes have embraced their neighbors as well. When Brandon Sutter was a rookie with the Canes, he was filmed for the NHL Network about life as a rookie. They followed him to Carter-Finley Stadium as he watched the Pack beat the Miami Hurricanes 38-28 to secure a bowl bid two years ago. You could tell how much he enjoyed it.
The Canes had a very nice video tribute to Kay Yow after she passed away that you can see below.
Coach Yow also dropped the puck on Hockey Fights Cancer night in a 2007 game against the Vancouver Canucks.
What cap did former captain Rod Brind’Amour wear when he had interviews? Is it a Canes cap or a Michigan State cap, his college school? No, it is always a NC State cap. When asked in a radio interview if he was pulling for Michigan State or UNC in the NCAA final in 2009, he said he didn’t care because the game didn’t involve his team, NC State.
What do Brind’Amour and Eric Staal have in common with NC State? They both have said that they pull for the Wolfpack instead of the other two schools in the area.
One former Cane even took the next step and donated to State baseball. From a 2007 N&O article, Mike Commodore showed how much he liked NC State baseball.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BRICK: Mike Commodore played baseball up until college, and the Hurricanes defenseman has become a semi-regular at N.C. State baseball games.
Commodore said he recently contributed $1,000 to the Wolfpack baseball program, earning him a brick engraved with his name outside Doak Field.
“I got a sweatshirt, golf shirt, hat and a brick. That’s what I wanted: a brick with my name on it.”
Informed that New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez has his own engraved brick, Commodore said he didn’t have a preference where his was installed.
“I don’t know if mine will be close to his,” Commodore said of Rodriguez’s brick. “He makes more money than I do.”
The Canes also brought the Stanley Cup to Carter-Finley Stadium for the 2006 FSU game on a Thursday night.
So this is a true symbiotic relationship. Now that we are in the Sidney Lowe 2.0 era, I hope that the basketball team becomes more successful to bring the starving fan base victories and championships, just as the Hurricanes have. I don’t need 3 Final Fours, 2 championship game appearances, and one title to match the Hurricanes to be a happy Wolfpacker, but at least one of those would be very nice. The young talent with names like Leslie, Brown, Painter, Howell, Wood, Harrow, etc., along with the long-term deals to Staal and Ward, and young talent like Sutter, Skinner, Boychuk, Harrison, and McBain, show that the future will hopefully be bright in the RBC Center for both the Wolfpack and the Hurricanes. It is time to put up banners for both teams that occupy the RBC Center.
Feel free to take part of the season long discussion thread on the Hurricanes on the SFN Forums page.