The Carolina Hurricanes are a professional ice hockey team based in Raleigh, North Carolina. They are members of the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL), and play home games at the 18,680 capacity RBC Center.
The team was formed in 1971 as the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association, and moved into the NHL in 1979 as the Hartford Whalers, relocating to North Carolina in 1997. They won their first Stanley Cup during the 2005–06 season, beating the Edmonton Oilers four games to three.
See also: Hartford Whalers. The New England Whalers were born in November 1971 when the World Hockey Association awarded a franchise to begin play in Boston, Massachusetts. For the first two-and-a-half years of their existence, the club played their home games at the Boston Arena, Boston Garden, and The Big E Coliseum in West Springfield. However, sagging attendance forced the team to Hartford, Connecticut. On January 11, 1975, the team played its first game in front of a sellout crowd at the Hartford Civic Center Coliseum. With the exception of a period in the late 1970s when the Whalers played at the Springfield Civic Center while their Hartford home was being renovated (due to a portion of the roof collapsing after a blizzard), the franchise was largely located in Hartford.
As one of the most stable WHA teams, the Whalers, along with the Edmonton Oilers, Quebec Nordiques, and Winnipeg Jets, were admitted to the NHL when the rival leagues merged in 1979. Because the NHL already had a team in the New England area, the Boston Bruins, the former WHA team was renamed the Hartford Whalers. Unfortunately, the team was never as successful in the NHL as they had been in the WHA, recording only three winning seasons. They peaked with their only playoff series victory in 1986 over the Quebec Nordiques and extended the Montreal Canadiens to overtime of the seventh game in the second round, followed by a regular season division title in 1986–87. 1992 was the last time the Hartford Whalers made the playoffs.
The Whalers found it increasingly difficult to compete in a changed financial environment during the 1990s, in part because Hartford was the smallest U.S.-based market in the league. In March 1997, Whalers owner Peter Karmanos announced that the team would move elsewhere after the 1996–97 season because of the team's inability to negotiate a satisfactory construction and lease package for a new arena in Hartford. In July, Karmanos announced that the Whalers would move to the Research Triangle area of North Carolina and the new Entertainment and Sports Arena in Raleigh, become the Carolina Hurricanes, and change their team colors to red and black. Due to the relatively short time frame for the move, Karmanos himself thought of and decided upon the new name for the club, rather than holding a contest as is sometimes done.
Unfortunately, the ESA would not be complete for two more years, and the only other hockey building in the Triangle was Dorton Arena, a 5,100-seat, 45-year-old building which was totally unsuitable for NHL hockey. The Hurricanes were thus forced to play home games in Greensboro, ninety minutes away from Raleigh, for their first two seasons after the move. This choice was disastrous for the franchise's attendance and reputation. With a capacity of over 21,000 people for hockey, the Greensboro Coliseum became the highest-capacity arena in the NHL, but Triangle-area fans proved unwilling to make the drive down I-40 to Greensboro, and fans from the Piedmont Triad mostly refused to support a lame-duck team that had displaced the longtime Greensboro/Carolina Monarchs minor-league franchise. Furthermore, only 29 out of 82 games were televised, and radio play-by-play coverage on WPTF was often pre-empted by North Carolina State Wolfpack basketball (for whose broadcasts WPTF was the flagship station), leaving these games totally unavailable to those who did not have a ticket. With attendance routinely well below the league average, Sports Illustrated ran a story titled "Natural Disaster," and ESPN anchors mocked the "Green Acres" of empty seats; in a 2006 interview, Karmanos admitted that "as it turns out, [Greensboro] was probably a mistake."
For 1998–99 the Hurricanes curtained off most of the upper deck, lowering the Coliseum's stated capacity to about 12,000, but attendance continued to lag. On the ice, however, the 'Canes were now out of the doldrums; led by the return of longtime Whalers captain Ron Francis, Keith Primeau's 30 goals, and Gary Roberts' 178 penalty minutes, they won the new Southeast Division by eight points and made the playoffs for the first time since 1992. Tragedy struck hours after their first-round loss to the Bruins when defenceman Steve Chiasson was thrown from his pickup truck and killed in a single-vehicle drunk-driving accident.
Despite their move to the brand-new ESA, the Hurricanes played lackluster hockey in 1999–2000, failing to make the playoffs. In 2000–01, though, they claimed the eighth seed, which nosed out Boston, and landed a first-round date with the defending champs, the New Jersey Devils. Although the Hurricanes were bounced by the Devils in six games, the series is seen as the real "arrival" of hockey in the Triangle. Down 3–0 in the series, the 'Canes extended it to a sixth game, thereby becoming only the tenth team in NHL history to do so. Game 6 in Raleigh featured their best playoff crowd that year, as well as their noisiest. Despite the 5–1 loss, Carolina was given a standing ovation by their home crowd as the game ended, erasing many of the doubts that the city would not warm up to the team.
The 'Canes made national waves for the first time in the 2002 playoffs. They survived a late charge from the Washington Capitals to win the division, but expectations were low entering the first round against the defending Eastern Conference champion Devils. However, Arturs Irbe and Kevin Weekes were solid in goal, and the Hurricanes won two games in overtime as they put away the Devils in six games. The second-round matchup was against the Montreal Canadiens, who were riding a wave of emotion after their captain Saku Koivu's return from cancer treatment. In the third period of Game 4 in Montreal, down 2–1 in games and 3–0 in score, Carolina would tie the game and then win on Niclas Wallin's overtime goal. The game became known to Hurricanes fans as the "Miracle at Molson"; Carolina won the next two games by a combined 13–3 margin over a dejected Habs club to take the series.
In the Eastern Conference finals, Carolina met the heavily-favored Toronto Maple Leafs. In Game 6 in Toronto, the Leafs' Mats Sundin tied the game with 22 seconds remaining to send it to overtime, where Carolina's Martin Gelinas would score to send the franchise to their first Stanley Cup finals. During this series, several Hurricanes fan traditions drew hockey-wide media attention for the first time: fans met the team at the airport on the return from every road trip, and echoed football-season habits honed for games across the parking lot by hosting massive tailgate parties before each home game, a relative novelty in the cold-weather-centric NHL. Inside the building, CBC's Don Cherry lauded the RBC Center as "the loudest building in the NHL", praise that would be echoed in 2006 .
In the Stanley Cup finals, Carolina would face the Detroit Red Wings, thought to be the prohibitive favorite all year. Though the Canes stunned the Wings in Game 1, when Francis scored in the first minute of overtime, Detroit stormed back to win the next four games. Game 3 in Raleigh featured a triple-overtime thriller (won by Detroit's Igor Larionov, the eldest player to score a last-round goal), which sportscasters called one of the best finals games in history. Despite the 4–1 series loss, it had been by far the most successful season in franchise history.
The momentum from the Cup Finals appearance did not last, however, and the next two seasons saw the 'Canes drop into the cellar of the NHL rankings; many of the new fans attracted to the team (and to hockey itself) during the 2002 playoff run lost interest and attendance declined. One of the few positive results of these losing years was the team's drafting of future star Eric Staal in 2003. In December 2003, the team fired Paul Maurice, who had been their coach since their next-to-last season in Hartford, replacing him with former New York Islanders bench boss Peter Laviolette. Weekes remained tough, but the offense was suspect; center Josef Vasicek led the team with a mere 19 goals and 26 assists for 45 points.
The outcome of the 2004–05 NHL lockout led to the shrinking of the payroll to $26 million. The 'Canes, however, turned out to be one of the NHL's biggest surprises, turning in the best season in the franchise's 34-year history. They finished with a 52–22–8 record and 112 points, shattering the previous franchise record set by the 1986–87 Whalers. It was the first time ever that the franchise had passed the 50-win and 100-point plateaus. The 112-point figure was one point behind the Ottawa Senators for the best record in the East, and tied with the Dallas Stars for the third-best record in the league (behind Detroit and Ottawa). However, the Stars had one more win, meaning the Hurricanes finished fourth overall (wins are the first tiebreaker for playoff seeding). Still, it was far and away the Hurricanes' best finish as an NHL team. They also ran away with their third Southeast Division title, finishing 20 points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Attendance increased from 2003–04, averaging just under 15,600 per game, and the team made a profit for the first time since the move from Hartford.
See main article: 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs.
In the playoffs, after losing the first two games of the conference quarterfinal series against the Montreal Canadiens, Laviolette lifted goalkeeper Martin Gerber in favor of rookie Cam Ward. The Hurricanes went on to win both games in Montreal, tying up the playoff series and turning the momentum around, winning the series on a Game Six overtime goal by Cory Stillman. Carolina faced the New Jersey Devils in the conference semifinals, which proved surprisingly one-sided, as the Hurricanes beat the Devils in five games. Stillman struck again, once again scoring the series-winning goal.
In the Eastern Conference finals, the Hurricanes faced the Buffalo Sabres, who had finished just one spot behind the Canes in the overall standings. The Sabres were devastated by injuries, at one point playing without their top four defensemen. The contentious series saw both coaches - Lindy Ruff and Laviolette - taking public verbal shots at each other's team, but in the deciding Game Seven, the Hurricanes rallied with three goals in the third to win by a score of 4–2. Rod Brind'Amour scored the game winner as the Hurricanes reached the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in team history.
The Cup finals were against the Edmonton Oilers, the first time in NHL history that two former WHA franchises had played against one another in the finals. The Canes rallied from a 3–0 deficit in Game 1 to win 5–4 after Rod Brind'Amour scored with 30 seconds left. In Game 2, the 'Canes shelled the Oilers 5–0 to take a two-game lead.
The Oilers won Game 3 in Edmonton, 2–1, as Ryan Smyth scored the game-winning goal with 2:47 left to play. Carolina rebounded in Game 4 with a 2–1 victory, and came home with a chance to win the Cup on home ice. However, game five saw the Oilers come back with a stunning 4–3 overtime win on a shorthanded breakaway by Fernando Pisani. Suddenly the momentum started to turn the Oilers' way. In Game 6 in Edmonton, Carolina was soundly defeated 4–0.
In Game 7, before the second-largest home crowd in franchise history (18,978), the Hurricanes won 3-1, sealing the Hurricanes' first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history. Ward was honored with the Conn Smythe Trophy for the playoffs' most valuable player, becoming just the fourth rookie to be honored with the award. Several Canes raised the Cup for the first time in long NHL careers; Rod Brind'Amour and Bret Hedican had both played over 15 years without winning the Cup, while Glen Wesley - the last remaining Hartford Whaler on the Hurricanes' roster - had waited 18 seasons.
The Hurricanes' Stanley Cup championship marked the first professional major league sports title for a team from the Carolinas. As well, they were the only NHL team in history to lose nine or more games in a year's playoffs, yet still win the Stanley Cup.
The Hurricanes were not able to follow up their success. In 2006-07, the Hurricanes finished third in the Southeast and eleventh overall in the Eastern Conference. This finish made them the first champions since the 1938–39 Chicago Blackhawks to have failed to qualify for the playoffs both the seasons before and after their championship season. In 2007-08, Carolina again missed out as Washington stormed back to take the division title on the last day of the season, leaving the Hurricanes second in the division and ninth overall in the conference, and making the Canes only the second club in NHL history to miss the playoffs for two seasons running after a Cup triumph.
The last player remaining from the Hartford days, defenseman Glen Wesley, announced his retirement after the 2007-08 season. As of Wesley's retirement, the only remaining legacies of the Hurricanes' Hartford days are broadcasters Chuck Kaiton, John Forslund and Tripp Tracy, equipment managers Wally Tatomir, Skip Cunningham and Bob Gorman, and the goal horn, a Kahlenberg T-3A, from the Hartford Civic Center that remains in use at the RBC Center.
This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by the Hurricanes. For the full season-by-season history, see Carolina Hurricanes seasons
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
Records as of August 2008.
|2003–04||82||28||34||14||6||76||172||209||1102||3rd, Southeast||Did not qualify|
|2004–05||Season cancelled due to 2004–05 NHL lockout|
|2005–061||82||52||22||—||8||112||294||260||1107||1st, Southeast||Stanley Cup Champions, 4–3 (Oilers)|
|2006–07||82||40||34||—||8||88||241||253||1007||3rd, Southeast||Did not qualify|
|2007–08||82||43||33||—||6||92||252||249||1183||2nd, Southeast||Did not qualify|
1 As of the 2005–06 NHL season, all games tied after overtime are decided in a shootout; shootout losses are recorded as OTL in the standings.
Retired numbers: The Hurricanes have officially retired two numbers since their move to Carolina, the 10 of center Ron Francis in 2006 and the 2 of Glen Wesley in 2009. The Hurricanes keep three numbers out of circulation without banners: defenseman Steve Chiasson's 3 was unofficially retired following his 1999 death while a member of the team, and the team honors the leaguewide retirement of Wayne Gretzky's 99, as well as the Hartford retirement of 9 for Gordie Howe. The franchise had retired two additional numbers in Hartford, but after the move, the Hurricanes resumed issuing the jerseys 2 of Rick Ley (D, 1972–81) and 19 of John McKenzie (RW, 1977–79).
Hall of Famers: Ron Francis, who captained the team in both Hartford and Carolina and spent fifteen years with the franchise overall as a player before joining its staff in 2006, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007. The only other Hall member to have played in a Hurricanes jersey is Paul Coffey, who spent one and a half seasons in Carolina near the end of his career (as well as, two seasons prior, twenty games in Hartford). In the franchise's history, WHA and NHL Whalers Gordie Howe and Dave Keon are both members, as is Bobby Hull, although he only played nine games in Hartford. In addition, longtime franchise radio play-by-play announcer Chuck Kaiton received the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award in 2004, an honor granted by the Hall of Fame.
Note: This list does not include selections of the Hartford Whalers.
Nikos Tselios (22nd overall)
Jeff Heerema (11th overall)
David Tanabe (16th overall)
Igor Knyazev (15th overall)
Cam Ward (25th overall)
Eric Staal (2nd overall)
Andrew Ladd (4th overall)
Jack Johnson (3rd overall)
Brandon Sutter (11th overall)
Zach Boychuk (14th overall)
These are the top-ten point-scorers in franchise (Hartford & Carolina) history. Figures are updated after each completed NHL regular season.
Note: Pos = Position; GP = Games Played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; P/G = Points per game; * = current Hurricanes player