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Celebrities and athletes heed Hurricanes’ siren call

Panthers’ Luke Kuechly sounds Hurricanes’ warning siren

Carolina Panther linebacker Luke Kuechly sounds the Carolina Hurricanes' warning siren before the Canes game against the Boston Bruins in game three of the Eastern Conference finals at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. Tuesday, May 14, 2019.
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Carolina Panther linebacker Luke Kuechly sounds the Carolina Hurricanes' warning siren before the Canes game against the Boston Bruins in game three of the Eastern Conference finals at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. Tuesday, May 14, 2019.

N.C. Central basketball coach LeVelle Moton didn’t realize he should have gotten his body prepared for spin class when he was invited to sound the warning siren for the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.

Moton had the honor as the Hurricanes took the ice for the second period of Game 3 of the first round of the NHL playoffs against the Washington Capitals. The best way he can describe turning the handle was getting started on a brand new bike, or a stationary one.

“The first two turns are difficult,” Moton said. “Well not difficult, but not easy. Once you get it going it turns.”

The warning siren, which crescendoes to a whining howl, is a big part of the playoff atmosphere at PNC, where it adds to the din as the Hurricanes’ take the ice. The team typically announces its siren-sounders the morning of each game, with no hints yet who may do the honors Wednesday night when the Hurricanes host the New York Islanders in Game 3 of their second-round series.

The team introduced the pregame siren during the 2008-09 season. Prior to the team taking the ice, a celebrity, former player, season-ticket holder or fan cranks the warning siren, a small but noisy cylinder with a rotating handle attached, to accompany the team on the ice.

Hurricanes vice president Jon Chase ordered the siren from a company that sells items to “enhance the gameday experience.” Chase couldn’t recall how much was spent on the siren, only adding that it was “well worth the investment.”

The staff has tightened some screws over the years, but the siren has mostly remained in decent shape. Moton said he had to keep one foot on the base of the siren so it wouldn’t move and turn the handle at the same time. Former Carolina player Erik Cole did it before Game 6 in the first round and Chase said Cole had so much energy that he moved the siren 3 feet to the right of its original spot.

The siren is located in section 229. Once introduced, the guest cranks the siren for 10 to 15 seconds. The siren is sounded three times during the evening, but the one right before the game is the one that sets the tone. The pregame video gets the crowd riled up, and the video builds up to the point the siren starts to howl.

“That’s their thing,” Moton said. “They (the fans) are waiting on that. It’s like the seventh-inning stretch, if I can compare it to something. They get hype for it. Once they put you on the big screen, you get a fan reaction and some energy off of that. Not long after they introduce you, they are waiting and anticipating for you to start turning it.”

Chase compared the moment - when that locker room door opens and the siren starts to howl - to being at a concert when the main artist appears for the first time.

“The siren helps add to that intensity,” Chase said. “I truly believe the person sounding that siren can impact the crowd.”

Having this many celebrities around tends to create some memorable moments. Wrestler Ric Flair sounded the siren wearing one of his $30,000 robes, changing in a men’s room on the concourse. Former N.C. State football player and Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher “changed the expectations,” Chase said, with his energetic rendition during that first season. Former N.C. State guard Dereck Whittenburg has done it twice, and has reminded Chase that the Hurricanes are 2-0 when he sounds the siren.

Since 2008, only two people have missed their scheduled appearance to sound the siren. Olympic gold-medal swimmer Cullen Jones got stuck in traffic on Trinity Road and jumped out of his car with friends and walked the rest of the way to make his appointed sound.

The playoffs have been reserved for recognizable names. Moton, N.C. State basketball coach Kevin Keatts and pro hockey player (and Raleigh native) Alyssa Gagliardi got the crowd going in Game 3 of the first round, N.C. State football coach Dave Doeren, tennis star John Isner and NBA star T.J. Warren in Game 4.

“It’s an exciting moment and it was an honor to be asked to sound the siren before the Canes’ first playoff game,” Keatts said. “When PNC Arena gets going, it’s as loud as anywhere in the country and that’s a great way to build energy in the building. What the Canes have been able to do over the past few weeks has been great both for their fan base and for our entire community.”

Over the years, NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. got one of the biggest crowd reactions, Chase recalled. They’ve also had pro athletes Russell Wilson, Webb Simpson, Steve Smith and Tony Romo, among others.

But it’s the former Hurricanes who really get the emotions going. The Hurricanes invited Cole, Tim Gleason and Andrej Nestrasil to handle Game 6.

“It stirs up memories with so many of our fans,” Chase said. “Our players are parts of peoples lives, it brings people to good places. It’s been a great run.”

Sports reporter Jonas Pope IV covers college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central and the ACC for the Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.
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