RALEIGH — Dorlene McDuffie aptly fits the term "Caniac."
She was raised in Garner and said her college allegiance is to the North Carolina Tar Heels. But she's a converted hockey fan and now a devoted Carolina Hurricanes fan.
"I break down and even wear red - for the Canes," she said, laughing.
Despite the muggy conditions and a stifling heat index Friday, McDuffie and a few friends turned out for the fourth annual Summer Fun Fest on the south lawn at the RBC Center. She also has put in an order for a 12-game mini-pack of tickets for the 2011-12 season and can't wait for it to start.
"We'd been watching the Canes for years, but I retired and I wanted to have some fun and I wanted to see it in person and not on TV," McDuffie said of getting tickets. "I love the game. It's fast, it's exciting."
Canes fans are hoping the same can be said about this year's team. There will be some new faces - Tomas Kaberle, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Anthony Stewart, Tim Brent and Brian Boucher - and some familiar faces gone. Veteran forward Erik Cole is the biggest loss, signing with the Montreal Canadiens, but veteran defenseman Joe Corvo also has left.
"Losing Cole will be interesting," said Brian Goble, 40, of Fuquay-Varina. "I hate to see him go. Cole went a whole season without being injured, he came up big for us, and he was a big fan favorite."
Goble is a Brandon Sutter fan and was wearing a "Sutter 16" T-shirt. But the large number of Jeff Skinner T-shirts in the crowd Friday again underscored how the 2011 Calder Trophy winner built a big following during a huge rookie season.
Lauren Fore, 17, wasn't wearing a Skinner shirt - her little brother, Jake, was - but quickly let it be known Skinner is her favorite.
"He's cute, he's athletic, and he can really play hockey," she said, smiling.
Fore said the Hurricanes "definitely" would reach the Stanley Cup playoffs this season after missing out the past two years. Had the Canes beaten the Tampa Bay Lightning in the final regular-season game in April, they would have made it last season.
Instead, the Hurricanes players, coaches and management have to go through the offseason with the thought of a dismal 6-2 loss to the Lightning stuck in their craw.
"That was a tough pill to swallow," forward Chad LaRose told fans in a question-and-answer session. "That motivation will drive us."
LaRose signed a two-year contract June 29, passing up on the free agency that began July 1.
"We've got a good shot at winning here," he said. "I didn't even want to test the (free-agent) market. It was an easy decision."
The Hurricanes open the season Oct. 7 at the RBC Center. The opponent: the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Goble came to the Fun Fest with his wife, Leigh; son, Austin, 11; and daughter, Anna, 8. They're all ready for hockey.
"I'm very interested to see how we're going to do this year," Goble said.
Sounds like a Caniac.
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