The Carolina Hurricanes NHL hockey franchise actually began in Hartford, Connecticut in 1972 when the then New England Whalers were established in the WHA professional hockey league. In 1979 the WHA was absorbed by the NHL and the New England Whalers became known as the Hartford Whalers. The Whalers were never quite able to take the next step and become an established, powerful team in the league’s upper echelon. Finally, the Whalers were relocated to Raleigh in 1997 and upon relocation, re-christened as the Carolina Hurricanes.
Initially, the arena where the Hurricanes would play was not completed in time for them to make their debut in the fall of 1997, so, the inaugural season was actually spent on the ice at an arena in Greensboro, some 80 miles away from their eventual home of Raleigh. The first season was hardly a success as the team finished the season with a record of 33 wins, 41 losses and 8 tie games. Clearly, moving the fading Whalers from New England to Carolina was not going to magically transform the team’s fortunes – they would have to develop talent and become competitive in order to cultivate a loyal fan base in their new southern home.
The following season, a fateful bit of luck befell the team when the NHL, in the midst of expanding the league into the southern United States, decide to create a new division, the South East Division, to accommodate some of the newer teams. The Hurricanes became the division champs in the 98′-99′ season and headed to the playoffs. Although the series was entertaining, the Hurricanes were over matched and were defeated in the first round by the Boston Bruins. While it would have been a more fitting Cinderella story if they’d moved further, the Hurricanes has accomplished something much greater in terms of cementing their future – they had won over a legion of new fans and cemented their popularity in the process of being eliminated from the playoffs.
In 1999, the new arena in Raleigh was finally complete and ready for regular NHL action. Strangely, the Hurricanes began the season with a nine game road trip instead of debuting in their first game of the new season in the new facility. The season ended the following April when the Hurricanes missed the playoffs by one single point. They would continue to draw more fans, culminating in a Stanley Cup final appearance in the 2002 season in which they were pitted against the league best Detroit Red Wings. The Hurricanes stole game one in overtime but would ultimately fall to the Wings in five games.
The next couple seasons were tumultuous as the season following the finals appearance the Hurricanes finished last in the entire league. The following season was not much better and it became evident the Hurricanes were in rebuilding mode. The entire league was shut down in 2004 due to a labor dispute. But the Hurricanes would be ready when the league resumed play.
In the 2005 season, the Hurricanes finished the year with an impressive 52-22-8 record and they advanced through the playoffs all the, again, to the Stanley Cup finals. They were pitted against the Edmonton Oilers of the Western Conference; both teams had played well up to that point and experts had a difficult time establishing a clear cut favorite to win it all. The series was one of the best Cup finals in recent memory; both teams experienced crushing losses and exhilarating victories, pushing the series to a final seventh game. In the end, the Hurricanes were victorious, winning game 7 by a score of 3-1. Their moment had finally come.
Currently, the Hurricanes have some of the best established talent in the league in All-Star center Eric Staal, goalie Cam Ward and rookie winger Jeff Skinner who qualified as a finalist for the Rookie of the Year honors (known as the Calder Trophy) with an impressive debut season (p.s. – he’s only 19 years old!). Indeed, with a rabid fan base, a recent Stanley Cup victory one of the nicest arena’s in the league, the Hurricanes are set to continue delivering thrilling, hard hitting, and skilled hockey for years to come. If you love hockey and happen to be in the area, make it a point to go to a game and experience Hurricanes hockey first hand.
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Author: Robert NickelThis author has published 14 articles so far. More info about the author is coming soon.