Return of the Caniacs?
by Billy Weaver

It seems like just last week that I walked into a jam packed RBC Center in Raleigh for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and was just blown away at the atmosphere and excitement in the building. On Wednesday night I was sucked right back into the hockey frenzy that is the home of the 'Caniacs and loved every minute of it. I just hope it lasts throughout a long and grueling season.

A sold out crowd watched the Carolina Hurricanes play host to the Buffalo Sabres in the 2006-07 regular season opener. Before the game the 'Canes organization honored its champions by dropping two banners from the rafters (2005-06 Southeast Division Championship and 2005-06 Eastern Conference Championship) and the raising of the coveted Stanley Cup Championship banner high above the ice at the RBC Center. There was just as much electricity in the air as there was in ANY of last years playoff games. The action on the ice wasn't too bad either.

Carolina would end up losing 3-2 in an overtime shootout but it was a hard fought game between two teams that pushed their Eastern Conference Championship Series last year to seven games. Don't be surprised to see Carolina and Buffalo back in the conference finals this season. Both teams looked that good and although the 'Canes ended up on the losing side of the ice, many of the players felt good about the direction of this years team. "Obviously it would have been nice to get two points but we got a point and it's a place for us to start, said Carolina defenseman Mike Commodore. "I think it was a good start. For a first game the new guys all played well and it's a place to build from."

The only thing discouraging about the game to me was the number of fans that had already left the game by late in the second period well before the outcome was decided. Granted, it was a Wednesday night but it was also opening night with the NHL Commissioner and Lord Stanley's Cup in the building.

I just hope that if the 'Canes get off to a sluggish start this season we don't see a repeat of the 2002-03 season when you couldn't give away tickets to a game. That was the season after Carolina advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals the first time.

Only time will tell.
Billy Weaver