From the Editor

Drescher: Canes' story dovetails region's growth

Executive EditorJanuary 29, 2011 

The Carolina Hurricanes have been good for the Triangle - and for The News & Observer.

The Canes have played in Raleigh for a decade. Sunday's NHL All-Star Game here is a special moment, as were two Canes' appearances in the Stanley Cup finals. In each case we elevated our coverage to meet your demand for more on the Canes and the National Hockey League.

For the all-star event, we started with special coverage wrapped around the Sports section in papers Tuesday through Friday. Today and Sunday we will publish all-star sections. We will conclude Monday with several pages of coverage of the game.

Growing up in Raleigh in the 1970s, I never imagined an NHL All-Star Game would be played here.

The Canes' presence, as much as any other indicator, shows how this region has changed from one dominated by state government and academia into a technology, medical and pharmaceutical magnet that attracts people from all over the world.

It was a great place to live then; it's even better now.

Without that inrush of newcomers, the Hurricanes would not be here and 42 of the best hockey players in the world would not be playing Sunday afternoon in what used to be a grassy field next to Carter Stadium. Not to mention the thousands of deep-pocketed visitors who have followed the players here for the weekend and are staying in our hotels, eating at our restaurants and visiting our museums.

Some of those visitors will be charmed by our people and warmed by our climate, and will think of this as a place to live or do business.

In some ways, the Canes' story is the tale of growth in the Triangle.

For The N&O, the Canes are more than a sports story. We also cover the Canes as business (one with strong ties to an arena built mostly with public funds) and as a community institution.

From the beginning, we've covered our first and only major-league professional sports franchise as if it were something special. Because it is.

We have plenty of transplants here who grew up with hockey and know much about the sport. Those of us from here have had to learn.

Our coverage seeks to be accessible to the hockey newcomer but sophisticated to earn the respect of the long-time fan.

Steve Ruinsky, our deputy sports editor who oversees The N&O's hockey coverage, grew up in New York and for years worked for Long Island-based Newsday. Ruinsky, who reads a flow of e-mail and online comments, said, "The hockey IQ here is pretty high."

Columnist Luke DeCock, who was our Canes beat writer from 2000 to 2008, said, "We've always had hockey-savvy readers and naive readers, and we still do. Over the years, though, we've definitely gained more of the former."

For the most part, working with the Canes players and coaches has been a pleasure. They respect the job we have to do, are interested in promoting hockey and understand they are not always going to like our coverage.

The N&O's Chip Alexander, who has worked here 31 years and covers the Canes beat, has worked with all kinds of professional athletes, especially those in golf, football and basketball.

He said NHL players are the best to work with. Practices are open, as are locker rooms after practices and games. Canes Coach Paul Maurice is accessible via cell phone. When Alexander needs to reach a Canes player away from the arena, he texts him and the player typically calls.

"Hockey players are by and large good people," DeCock said. "There are very few bad eggs around."

That's a key part of why this community has embraced them. The Canes seem to like and appreciate their fans. And fans have responded with their support and interest.

We seek to meet fans' need for information with authoritative coverage of the team, in print and with our Canes Now blog at newsobserver.com.

We're glad the NHL All-Star Game is here. We're glad the Canes are here.

SBI problems on CNN

The problems at the State Bureau of Investigation, revealed in our series "Agents' Secrets," will get a nationwide audience this weekend.

CNN will air "Rogue Justice" Sunday at 8 p.m. The show will focus on Greg Taylor, who spent 17 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, and Floyd Brown, whose 14-year stay in a mental institution was based on scant evidence and an unlikely confession. The show will repeat at 11 p.m. Sunday.

Baker wasn't first

In my column last week about John H. Baker Sr., who died in 1985, I referred to him, as The N&O had previously, as Raleigh's first African-American police officer. He began work for the city in 1942.

A reader directed me to Elizabeth Reid Murray's history of Wake County, which says several black police officers were hired by the city during Reconstruction in the late 1860s.

john.drescher@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4515

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