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How To Make Hockey Really Work In The Triangle

The Carolina Hurricanes have made a stunning run to the Stanley Cup Finals,
and the signs are everywhere in Raleigh. Thrilled transplants wear the
colors and put flags on their cars (or, humorously, on pickup trucks), and there
are signs and banners everywhere. And it took us until today to figure out
what was different from when Duke, UNC, or less often N.C. State makes a run to
the Final Four: antipathy.

The North Carolina Museum tipped us off. How's that? Well, simple.
There was an enormous banner there supporting the 'Canes (and while we're fine
with that, we hope the budget-crunched state of North Carolina isn't paying a
penny for promoting the team), and we wondered what would happen if, say, UNC's
name was on the banner instead of the Hurricanes. The question answers
itself.

Duke, N.C. State and Wake fans would complain, and people would threaten to
cut off donations. It'd be even worse if it were Duke, because the State
and UNC alumni bases are so much larger.

This is the first time in the Triangle's sports history that the entire area
can be pretty much behind one team. Even the Bulls and the Mudcats of minor
league fame can point to different crowds (Bulls=White Sox fans; Mudcats=Cubs
fans. It's a rough analogy, but the attitudes of the fans towards each other are
similar).

It's fascinating to see the wave of support develop, but to a certain extent
it's manufactured still. And it's a nice wave off Maui, not like the
Tsunamis that occurred when N.C. State snuck off with the trophy in '83, or like
when Duke and UNC both made the Final Four in '91. We have yet to hear the
word hockey mentioned in a grocery store checkout line.

What this town really needs to make it work is another hockey team, in
the same conference. Then the area tradition of taking sides can be
awoken, and the Hurricane haters and the new teams partisans can truly make
hockey a Triangle passion. We realize the market is too small for that,
but it would be fun to see it happen.