Greenville natives certainly can’t agree on many subjects. They can’t
come to terms with which college to pull for. Throw politics out the
window. When it comes to sharing resources, preschoolers sometimes show
To Triangle natives, the eastern part of the state is just a by-product
of driving to their luxurious beach vacation homes. To eastern N.C.
natives, the Triangle is a shopping haven representing its more
bureaucratic nature. Down east, life is simple and slow. In the
capital, life is frenzied and frantic.
But what can the North Carolinians agree on? Besides winning the
lottery, there’s not much else.
In the sports realm, normally bitter fans unite in the Carolina
Panthers’ cause. And despite the 252 mile drive, most eastern North
Carolinians identified with the old Charlotte Hornets franchise.
However when it comes to the other major N.C. professional sports team,
few residents outside of the Triangle pay attention to the Carolina
Hurricanes. Where’s the love? The Canes are making their second Stanley
Cup charge in four years and for some perplexing reason eastern N.C.
isn’t paying them any mind. What gives?
Is it the cultural divide? ECU club ice hockey worked so well during
their inaugural season. Yes, the Northern influence created by
transplanted students helped generate interest. However, Pirate fans
and locals alike seemed generally intrigued by the almost foreign sport.
I realize that most eastern N.C. residents have never attended a Canes
home game. Heck, most locals probably haven’t had the opportunity to
even experience minor league hockey. Just go once, you’ll get hooked.
Is it too hard to identify with the players? Twenty-one year-old Eric
Staal’s name isn’t hard to pronounce and neither is right wing Justin
Williams’. The toughest name is 2006 USA Olympic and Hurricanes coach
Peter Laviolette. Sound it out, it’s not that hard.
Is it confusion on where the franchise is? In 2002, a Canadian governor
was mistaken when he thought the franchise was based in Charlotte
rather than Raleigh. However, Greenville residents just 80 short miles
down the road would have a hard time identifying just where the Canes
call home if N.C. State didn’t share the RBC Center.
I don’t get it. The local newspapers provide very little coverage.
Legion baseball scores are included, but hockey continually gets back
page treatment. The Winston-Salem Journal puts the Panthers
above-the-fold despite an approximate 80 mile drive. Why shouldn’t the
Canes receive the similar coverage from the hometown papers?
I say that eastern N.C. starts to break the great divide. The region
should support the team, not ignore it. Buy a jersey. Start a fan club,
be a Caniac. Cheer quietly, but just do something.
Watch the Canes’ Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the New
Jersey Devils. The first game is on Saturday at 2 pm on NBC. The Canes
have home ice and like the Devils who swept the New York Rangers, have
won four consecutive games.
Two bickering regions should unite in the state’s athletic cause.
Imagine if the Canes hoist the Stanley Cup. All North Carolinians then
should deserve to be called Caniacs, not just those in the Triangle.