Where are all the Carolina Hurricanes fans?
Sure, drive anywhere close to the RBC Center on a playoff game
night and you would swear that NC State was about to tip off an
NCAA regional basketball game. But at closer glance, those red
and white flags waving from SUV's, minivans and pick-up trucks are
actually Carolina Hurricanes flags. Yes, there are even hundreds of
"caniacs" tailgating in the parking lot eating Bojangles chicken
and tossing around the pigskin (parking lot hockey hasn't
exactly caught on yet) two hours before game time.
But outside of the triangle area you would be hard pressed to find
"real" Carolina Hurricanes fans. Granted, it's fairly easy to find a
few people that "say" they're Hurricanes fans but I define "a fan" as
someone that owns more than one piece of team paraphernalia and can
name at least half of the players on the team.
The Hurricanes could very possibly win a second trip to the Stanley Cup
Finals in three seasons, not including the lockout year, and you would
be hard pressed to find a good selection of 'Canes merchandise east of
The sad thing is that the Carolina Hurricanes certainly aren't doing
anything to rectify the situation. When I e-mailed the 'Canes media
coordinator to request credentials to the Eastern Conference Finals I
was originally denied. I was told that space was limited and that
credentials were given to national media and those who have covered
games in person throughout the course of the regular season. After
explaining to them that it would be in the organizations best interest
to take advantage of all the free publicity they could get east of
I-95, I was then given credentials to the Conference Finals.
It just shouldn't be that way and I think a few people in the
organization are starting to get the picture.
If I were head of marketing for the Carolina Hurricanes I would make it
a priority to market my product in the east. Greenville is less than an
hour and half from the RBC Center in Raleigh. How hard would it to be
to hold some sort of kids clinic with a couple of Hurricanes players at
Bladez On Ice in Greenville? The community has already shown an
interest in the sport after packing the house on a regular basis to
watch the ECU Hockey Team, a club sport on the rise. It's amazing how
personalizing a sport translates into new fan interest and more
importantly ticket sales.
In order to generate a fan base outside of the triangle area the team
needs to reach out to the public. Just watching the games on television
doesn't do the sport justice. And speaking of television, that's
another nightmare for not only the 'Canes but the NHL as a whole. Most
of the NHL playoff games are exclusive to Outdoor Life Network which is
only available in the Greenville area to digital cable subscribers.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why the 'Canes have
yet to catch on in the east but hopefully that will change in the near
future. If you get a chance, head to the RBC Center for a Hurricanes
game. It's a wonderful experience. Just try to ignore the NC State
banners hanging from the rafters... I do.