There’s something about the Hurricanes that inspires a certain kind of loyalty in their quest for the Stanley Cup.
We’re not talking about getting a token souvenir T-shirt or puck, or even the bigger investment of a jersey. Those are for the casual fans.
It’s the kind of devotion that compels you to mark your love for the Canes in a more everlasting way, the kind you might not tell your mom about. (But you most certainly will share with the world on social media.)
We’re talking tattoos.
Now that Carolina is in the Eastern Conference finals, the need for Canes ink is at a high right now, and not just among the super fans. At some point during the Hurricanes postseason run, seemingly Twitter is overflowing with tweets from someone vowing — vowing! — to get a Canes or Stanley Cup tattoo, perhaps in a delicate place hidden from the sun, if the team wins the whole shebang.
Or in some people’s case, that was the deal if the Canes won the first round. Because when your team hasn’t been in the playoffs in a decade, what are the chances, right?
“It happened,” said J.C. Bobbitt, with a big laugh.
Bobbitt, a 31-year-old from Durham, told his social media followers he would get a tattoo if the Canes beat the Capitals to advance to the second round. The Hurricanes ended up beating Washington in seven games. And for Bobbitt’s very first tattoo, it would be a special one.
“If the hockey gods can get us a win, I’ll get a tattoo on my rear end of whoever scores the game-winning goal,” he recalled saying.
Like many who tempt fate with such grand gestures, the hockey gods answered his plea. Filled with giddy excitement the night the Hurricanes eked out a Game 7, 4-3 win in double overtime, getting a tattoo wasn’t on his priority list. The next day, though, he felt a nagging sense of obligation to keep his word, though really, who would know if he didn’t get a tattoo on his derriere?
“So when’s your tattoo happening?” texted his mother, who had seen his bet on Twitter.
“In the moment it happens, people ask, when are you doing it?” Bobbitt said. “It becomes a point of personal pride. I said, ‘I’m going to do this. I’m going to be held to my word.’”
In the process, Bobbitt decided to raise money for the Carolina Hurricanes Foundation, which helps area children and promotes youth hockey. He raised about $135.
He booked an appointment to get the number 23, for Hurricanes left wing Brock McGinn, on his rear end, incorporating a Hurricanes flag in the design. Bobbitt, a graduate of Wake Forest, didn’t want people to mistake the number for another No. 23 well-known in North Carolina: Michael Jordan.
“It never really hurt,” he said about the experience. “I got it before Game 3 in Raleigh, and my concern was sitting in the arena. It was a little sore. If someone was going to smack me on it, it would sting a little bit.”
Hamilton the pig
Leah Adams made a similar pledge on Twitter during Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs. In her case, she said she’d get a tattoo of Hamilton, the Raleigh pig that’s become a symbol of good luck for the team.
“As I call it, an offering to the hockey gods,” Adams told The News & Observer. “Lo and behold, we’ve made it this far.”
This isn’t the first tattoo for Adams, a 29-year-old who lives in Greensboro, so the shock value isn’t there. But if she’s getting a Canes tattoo, this is the year to get that permanent memento. She grew up in Raleigh and remembers when the Hurricanes won the Cup in 2006, a feat that inspired her to learn how to play hockey.
And while it was mostly self-inflicted pressure to follow through with the tattoo, it was never anything she thought she’d regret. She now has a realistic portrayal of the pig on her right thigh — “a solid 4 inches tall,” she said.
“He’s a pretty cute pig,” Adams said. “He’s bringing us a lot of luck. It would be a fun way to remember this playoff run.”
One — well, two — things remain for Adams this season. Winning the Stanley Cup, of course. And, she said: “I have to meet that pig.”
Hamilton has captured Kristopher Wishon’s heart, too. He and a few friends have toyed with the idea of getting Hamilton tattoos as well. It started as a bet — something they would dare each other to do if the Hurricanes win the Cup. But now, it just seems like something they should do, no matter the outcome.
“We’re trying to get everyone’s schedules together and get this thing done,” said Wishon, who lives outside Greensboro and regularly attends games. “This is a memorable year.”
Their Hamilton might look a little different than Adams. It wouldn’t be a portrait, Wishon said.
“In very layman’s term, it’s Porky Pig with Hamilton’s colors waving a Hurricanes flag,” Wishon said. “Hamilton is a big deal.”
Finally, a shot
And really, this whole season has been a big deal, especially for those who have stuck by the team through its ups and downs, which have been more down than up in recent years. Just ask Amanda Willis, who has been a fan since 2002, when the Hurricanes made it to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time, and can easily rattle off a time line of the team’s history. She became a season ticket holder when the team was, as she puts it, “really bad.”
“But it was great,” she said. “I was still obsessed with them.”
She describes the “torture” of the NHL lockout of 2004-05, when “it was like hockey was being ripped away from us.”
But then, it was 2006, and hockey was back and the Canes were good. Really good. She made one of those declarations about getting a tattoo.
“It was just a magic year,” she said, with the night of June 19, 2006, when the Hurricanes beat the Oilers 3-1 in Game 7 to win the Stanley Cup, etched in her memories.
“The best night of my life was Game 7,” said Willis, who is 39 and lives in Raleigh. “Nothing compared to that.”
She got a tattoo of the Stanley Cup with the Canes logo and 2006 on her ankle. It was her second tattoo.
Now, the craziness is back, and Willis is contemplating getting a second Canes tattoo if they win again.
“I just hope we keep going,” she said. “It’s almost too good to be true. I’m just so proud of the team. I really think they have a shot.”
Hurricanes at Bruins
Eastern Conference finals
When: 3 p.m., Sunday
Where: TD Garden, Boston