Hurricanes or Tropical Depression??
by Billy Weaver

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 I-95.

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.

Billy Weaver