RALEIGH — Though Carolina Hurricanes fans hardly seemed shocked by the firing of Paul Maurice as coach Monday, the hiring of Kirk Muller was a surprise.
"Who is he? Where's he now? Did he play for us? Or the Whalers?" asked Jennifer Howard of Apex as she waited to meet friends at the Backyard Bistro near the RBC Center.
Raleigh native and ECU faculty member David Batts arrived at the RBC Center to buy tickets for a Jan. 14 game against the NHL champion Boston Bruins - and to buy golf-ball sized baby shoes for his 3-day-old daughter Harper.
"Hopefully, this will be the right new coach at the right time," said Batts, a former football player for Sanderson High and the Pirates.
Batts and wife Angie plan to make sure their first child develops a fondness for hockey and the Hurricanes.
"I didn't know one thing about hockey when the Canes first got here," Batts said. "Now, I'm hooked. I'm looking forward to seeing what this guy can do."
Mike Dinola of Chapel Hill went to the RBC earlier in the afternoon to purchase tickets and hadn't heard about the change.
"Is this guy Muller a good coach?" Dinola asked. "What kind of history does he have? He's got a lot of work to do."
The head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League, Muller arrives as a mystery. But it was impossible to find a Canes fan who didn't expect a change.
"They obviously had to do something," said Scott Fonville of Durham, who went to the RBC Center to pick up tickets for N.C. State's basketball game on Wednesday against Indiana.
"I only get to two or three Hurricanes game a year, but I keep up with them. They should be playing better than this. I think everyone really likes Maurice, but it just wasn't working."
Kathy Shonerd of Raleigh was at the RBC to get a Canes sweater autographed by struggling team captain Eric Staal for her husband Dave.
"We were flat-lining, something had to be done," she said. "Everybody loves Coach Mo and his wry sense of humor, but they (front office) had to make a change. There's still time (for a playoff run)."
Outside Moe's Southwest Grill in Cameron Village, longtime Canes fan Brad Lewis may have summed up the feelings of many.
"I guess there comes a time when you just have to throw the baby out with the bath water - as much as everybody may love that baby," he said.