One thing that is apparent when one arrives at PNC Arena, that people really love the Carolina Hurricanes. The club is fortunate to have diehard fans given the fact they have constant relocation rumors that seem to surround them. The rumors began when Carolina owner Peter Karmanos supposedly met with Quebec City officials. What they talked about remains largely unknown, but Karmanos has recently found himself is some financial trouble. This has caused speculation to run rampant.
Karmanos is being sued for more than $100 million dollars. One of his sons is bringing this lawsuit against him after he missed multiple payments on a loan taken out against a family trust. According to SI, the lawsuit states that in 1999, Karmanos borrowed more than $353 million from the trust. He then proceeded to use the trust as collateral to support the Hurricanes from 2000 to 2013. Karmanos is looking for a succession plan as he seeks to sell his interests to a local investor for $420 million, but he would remain in control. It is easy to understand why he has not found a buyer as it would be difficult to find someone willing to invest that much money while staying on the sidelines.
Many still believe that it is a long shot that the Hurricanes are uprooted from Raleigh as they have a very generous agreement for their lease at PNC arena. They are locked-in until 2024 with 100% of parking and concessions for all non-NC State University events. They also have great rates on utilities and insurance for the building as well. Karmanos believes that the Raleigh/Durham market will support a good product as long as the Canes remain competitive and what I witnessed during my visit to Raleigh would support the Canes are going to be alright.
With all of the background distractions lurking in the back of Canes fans minds, the total game day experience does not suffer. From the very moment that I set foot on the grounds of PNC Arena I had nothing but positive experiences with every member of the team staff I encountered. The Canes boast some of the lowest prices in the NHL. Even as some of the locals do complain about the ticket prices and claim they are "riding the high" of their 2006 Stanley Cup championship.
The ownership group is very aware that they need to put people into seats. One of the most noticeable things I witnessed was that a lot of seats remained empty in the lower bowl. It was even a night where they were running promotions as well. Maybe it's missing the playoffs, or the club not winning as many games, but from a neutral fan perspective it really is a great atmosphere that the Canes front office is trying to promote. They just need that ONE breakthrough to get fans back into the arena.
The game day fan experience is quite excellent as the concourses of PNC arena are spotless and the staff are wonderful. One of the big issues that bugged me was there seemed to be no escalators in the building. I often struck up a great conversation with the season ticket holders and I met several of the folks around me as well. Many told me that they say great optimism in the team and they were supporting the #Redvolution.
My favorite experience was that the Hurricanes had a full country band playing during intermission. This was a new change for me as I am often exposed to the usual intermission shenanigans, then the stadium goes dark while they replay highlights. The Hurricanes organization really goes above and beyond to create a unique southern atmosphere at their games. The Hurricanes really shouldn't worry about the product on the ice as it seems a bright future awaits them.
Led by Head Coach Bill Peters, the Hurricanes seem to be heading in the right direction. They have solid vets like Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner. Plus a promising young nucleolus of Noah Hanifin, Sebastian Aho and others, the Canes play an entertaining brand of hockey. No doubt they have work to continue to do as they need to find a suitable replacement for Cam Ward and build from the blue line out.
Everyone shares a common love for the game and the Hurricanes faithful are no different. In fact, as I am putting the finishing touches on this article I am wearing some Hurricanes gear at my local dealership and I struck up a conversation with my service advisor. He comes from Charlotte and is a huge Canes fan and makes it a point to get to Nationwide Arena in Columbus when they come to play the Blue Jackets. He said that he really misses going to the games and hopes to relocate back down to Raleigh soon as the northern cold is becoming to much to bear.
What are your thoughts? What would you like to see happen to the Carolina Hurricanes franchise?