Peter Karmanos bristled at the thought that a sale of the Carolina Hurricanes National Hockey League team he owns could result in the team’s moving from Raleigh.
No, he said, the team “is one of the best franchises in the league and one of the best markets in the league, one of the fastest-growing markets. It has one of the best arena deals in the league and one of the best arenas to play in.”
But with his announcement that he’s looking to sell comes an unsettling feeling nonetheless for the Triangle, where the Hurricanes have become a popular attraction and built a fan base since 1997, when the team was moved from Hartford, Conn., and renamed.
Skeptics wondered then whether the National Hockey League would fly in this region, where college basketball and football had long ruled. There were some early bumps over things like ticket prices and sharing the arena with N.C. State. But ultimately the Canes did succeed, even winning the Stanley Cup in 2006. Of late, the team hasn’t done as well, but the fans keep going, some transplants from the North who love their hockey and others local fans who have learned to love it.
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Karmanos talked about how he might still run the team for a while after a sale, and he has sold minority interests in recent years. And, yes, the Hurricanes’ lease for the arena runs through 2024.
But no matter what sorts of assurances the owner may offer, there remain markets elsewhere in the United States with wealthy potential owners who might well compete with Raleigh for the franchise. And no potential owner, particularly if one pays $400 million – the price Karmanos has put on the team – is going to surrender the right to move the team if he or she wants to.
Karmanos should understand the disquiet that his announcement will cause. One hopes his confidence in the team’s remaining in Raleigh is justified.