All-Stars in alignment

February 1, 2011 

Months of eager anticipation, no doubt tinged with a little worry, plus loads of hard, behind-the-scenes work. That pretty well captures the run-up to the National Hockey League's All-Star Weekend in Raleigh, which now is history - except for the accounting of benefits, tangible and intangible, from an event that by all appearances was a rip-roaring success.

Thousands of visitors poured into the Triangle, many of them admiring the new terminal at RDU Airport completed just in time to welcome them.

The weather, after weeks of stubborn cold, relented to produce a couple of those classic foretaste-of-spring days that were perfect backdrops to the festivities.

The RBC Center was packed with fans, whose well-known zeal in their support of the Carolina Hurricanes ("loudest house in the NHL") carried over into the All-Star skills competition Saturday evening and the Sunday afternoon game itself. With Canes captain Eric Staal, goaltender Cam Ward and rookie forward Jeff Skinner all participating in the game - Staal captained one of the two squads - the crowd had an extra shot of inspiration and lived up to its billing for enthusiasm.

Benefits? Surely the hotels, restaurants, bars and taxi companies enjoyed a nice boost. The Hurricanes franchise received a solid validation that it's operating on fertile ground - music to the ears of owner Peter Karmanos, who defied skeptics when he brought the Canes to North Carolina from Connecticut in 1997.

But the larger benefits will accrue to a city and region that hosted a high-profile major-league whoop-de-doo and pulled it off to general satisfaction and delight. Those who handled the arrangements and imbued the weekend with a splendid sizzle are due hearty congratulations - and it doesn't subtract from their accomplishments that Mother Nature was so cooperative.

They say that success breeds success. The All-Star Weekend showcased this area's attractiveness and its potential as a host for the next Big Deal. It was a whole bunch of fun and left us feeling proud.

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