The Carolina Hurricanes are approaching the 20th anniversary of their move to North Carolina, in 1997. Formerly the Hartford Whalers, the team and owner Peter Karmanos were eagerly welcomed to Tar Heelia and joined in a complex deal with government and N.C. State University to play in what is now the PNC Arena.
A highlight, of course, was the Stanley Cup, the team’s first, in the 2005-06 season.
But now, with the team in last place in attendance (evidenced by the empty seats on game nights) and Karmanos, 72, looking to sell, speculation has been intense that the Hurricanes might move. So it was interesting when National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman said recently that, “I don’t think anyone needs to worry about the future of the franchise in Carolina.”
It’s not just Hurricanes’ fans who are happy to hear that. The team has been a valuable community asset, and its players and other personnel have been generous with time and energy in a variety of good causes hereabouts. Karmanos says he’d be interested in a local group purchasing the team, which would be the best option. And the community is home to big businesses and to wealthy people who could afford the franchise.
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We must hope that the current drop in attendance is temporary, and that if the team’s on-ice fortunes improve, so will its in-the-stands fortunes. The excitement that came with the team’s arrival in North Carolina need not fade. And for those who haven’t been to a game, it’s a great family outing, and these days, more affordable than ever.