Carolina Hurricanes

Thu, 05 Mar 2009 10:01

History of Carolina Hurricanes

Information about the NHL team Caroline Hurricanes.

The Carolina Hurricanes were formed in 1971 as the New England Whalers. Back then they were part of the World Hockey Association. The team moved to the NHL in 1979 and adopted a new name, the Hartford Whalers, and moved to Carolina in 1997. The team is a member of the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the NHL and plays at the RBC, its home arena.

The Carolina Hurricanes first moved to Carolina after less-than-expected performance in Boston and again to Hartford, where the team had a good first start, playing to a sold-out crowd at the Hartford Civic Center Coliseum. The move to the Research Triangle area of Carolina also meant a change in the their name to the Carolina Hurricanes and their team colors to red and black. While the Entertainment and Sports Arena was undergoing construction the team had to travel 80 miles to Greensboro to play home games because Dorton Arena, the nearest arena, was unsuitable for hockey.

The team faced more problems in Greensboro, however.  Despite the fact that the Greensboro area was the highest-capacity area in the NHL the long drive to and from Greensboro was something that most hockey fans were not willing to take.  Only 29 out of the 82 games were televised and radio broadcasts were often preempted by broadcasts for the North Carolina State Wolfpack basketball games.  This resulted to very poor attendance, which became so notorious that it led to a feature article by Sports Illustrated titled “Natural Disaster”. ESPN commentators also got in on the action, mocking the rows of empty seats that increasingly became familiar in most Hurricanes games. The season ended on a dismal note for the Hurricanes with a record of 33-41-8. Whalers owner Peter Karmanos later admitted in a 2006 interview that the stint in Greensboro was a mistake.

The team saw a ray of hope in the 1998-199 season with the return of Whalers team captain Ron Francis. The team won the new Southeast Division and was back in the play-offs for the first time since 1992. A victory on Game 3 in Boston was followed by a series of losses, however, including one loss in Game 5. This was made worse by the tragic death of defenseman Steve Chiasson. He had been drinking on the flight home from the game, and was killed on single-vehicle drunk driving accident on the early morning of May 3rd.

The hurricanes’ home arena was finally complete by the time the 1999-2000 season rolled in. However,  the team had to wait awhile before playing on their home turf since they started the season with 9 straight road games with a record of 4-2-3.  They played their first game in the Raleigh arena against the New Jersey Devils, with Andrei Kovalneko making the first goal. However, the opening night was slated for a disappointing end. The Devils scored four goals and beat the Hurricanes 4-2. The Hurricanes continued to struggle for the play-off spot for the rest of the season,  falling short with a score of 37-35-10-0.

 2000-2001 would prove to be a better year, with the team claiming 8th seed and edging out the Boston team to secure a match against the  New  Jersey Devils. the Hurricanes pushed hard,  extending to the sixth game, the only team to do so. In front of the  largest and noisiest play-off  crowd that the team has seen in years, Hurricanes finally fell to the Devils, but not before they were a given a rousing standing ovation by the home crowd.

The Hurricanes improved their play in 2002 and won the division to again face the Devils in a rematch. This time, the Canes emerged victorious in the first two games at home led by goalie Arturs Irbe. The Devils managed to tie the series in their home turf, but the Canes again generated a 3-2 series lead. The Hurricanes finally won their first play-off series with a victory of 1-0.  Next in line was a match against the Montreal Canadiens for the second-round match up. The match-up later became known as the “Miracle at Molson’ where the Hurricanes tied in Game 4 and won with Nicolas Wallin’s  overtime goal. They followed this victory by winning the final two games to reach their first ever Conference finals.

The Hurricanes faced the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference, where Martin Gelinas would make the final score 8 minutes into the overtime, a goal that would send the team to the finals. It was also during this time when several hockey-fan traditions were put in the spot-light. Hockey fans greeted the team in the airport after every game and hosted tail gate parties on the home arena parking lot.

The team’s next match-up for the Stanley Cup finals was against the all-year favorite Detroit Red Wings. In a surprising upset the Canes won the first game, which sent fans in frenzy. Detroit bounced back by winning the next four games. The two teams battled late into the night in a match dubbed by commentators as one of the best finals in the history of the game. The Canes lost 4-1 but this season was by far the best in franchise history.

The team’s momentum suffered after the Cup finals and attendance declined. The season was off to a poor start with a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers on opening night at the Cane’s home turf. They only managed 3 wins out of 31 games and landed at the bottom of the Southeast Division, and failed to win another game, losing 9 out of a total of 11 games to cap the season off with the worst NHL record of 22-43-11-6.  Star player Eric Staal was drafted to the Hurricanes in 2003, and the Canes started to climb their way up, placing 3rd on the Southeast Division. This helped boost attendance and for the first time since they moved from Hartford, the franchise was finally able to post a profit.

The Hurricanes again tasted success in the Montreal, winning the first two games of the conference QF series. They faced the New Jersey Devils for the semifinals and beat the opponent in five straight games with Cory Stillman leading the charge and scoring the winning goal. The Canes faced the Buffalo Sabres in the Eastern Conference finals, winning the match with a score of 4–2.

The team faced the Edmonton Oilers in the Cup finals and bagged their first Stanley Cup victory, with former favorite rookie Cam Ward winning the Conn Smythe Trophy for the most valuable player of the year award, the fourth rookie to be honored with the award. This victory also allowed several long-time Canes to raise the trophy, like Rod Brind'Amour, Glen Wesley and Bret Hedican, for the first time in their NHL careers. This also made the Hurricanes the only team to win the Stanley Cup despite nine or more games in the year’s play-offs.

Unfortunately, the Hurricanes failed to qualify for the season after the Stanley Cup, a defeat that was repeated in 2007-2008, when the team placed second in the Division and ninth in the overall conference, making the Canes one of the two teams in history to miss the play-offs for two consecutive seasons after winning the Cup.