On October 7 the Carolina Hurricanes obtained their very first home win of the season. Coming back from a 5-4 deficit in the third period, the Hurricanes scored four unanswered to win the game in a dominant fashion 8-5 over the New York Rangers. Immediately following the win something very special happened on the ice that has never really been seen in the NHL before. A special celebration orchestrated by the players and meant for the fans.
The Hurricanes gave each other the traditional on ice fist bumps after a strong win and then began to skate over to the blue line as the “Caniacs” in the stands clapped and cheered on. Once the Hurricanes arrived at the blue line, Justin Williams who is the newest captain of the team and was an important player in the Hurricanes’ 2006 Stanley Cup Championship, led his teammates in a slow, above the head, full body clap that was soon mimicked by everyone in attendance at PNC Arena. Following that Williams motioned for the entire team to skate with him to the end boards and jump into the glass. A simple celebration that meant so much to those in attendance.
This post win celebration provides much needed character to the NHL. Sometimes it can seem fairly evident that just in the general culture of the NHL there is a certain sense of “act like a professional” that can create a somewhat predictable and boring landscape. Especially when it comes to the relationship between the fans and players. This doesn’t mean that all players don’t care about the fans or that teams have no interest in taking any initiatives to make their fans happy. All I am saying with this is that it’s nice to see a team thinking outside of the box when it comes to recognizing the fans in a simple and fun way.
The Hurricanes have a small but very passionate fanbase. There aren’t a lot of fans that regularly go to games or take a hardcore interest in hockey or the Hurricanes. Carolina has sat at the bottom of the attendance standings since 2009 averaging just 86.6 percent capacity. Then again, there hasn’t been anything to cheer for in Carolina since 2009 when they made it to the Eastern Conference Final. Since then, they have failed to make the playoffs every year and hold the longest postseason drought in the NHL.
For the fans that show up to cheer on their Hurricanes, this is an incredibly awesome gesture by the team and I know myself and many others hope it doesn’t go away any time soon. More teams should find a way to create something special like this for their fans. The Hurricanes are showing, not telling, their fans that they are grateful for their attendance. The players on this team haven’t been in Carolina since the days of success in 2006 and 2009 but they understand that there has been a lot of suffering for this fanbase since those years.
It’s an awesome gesture and other teams should take note. The players in Carolina are doing something right and proving that the team’s success and fans happiness are a symbiotic relationship.
In addition to how happy it makes the fans; this celebration really showcases the special personalities of the players. In recent years, the NHL has certainly taken steps to show the more personal side of the players and have created an awareness. An awareness that the players we watch and adore (or possibly hate) are people just like us. This is evident in the NHL’s series of videos on YouTube titled “Puck Personality” and in the social media realm of the league that many are tuned into on a regular basis. And let’s not forget the hundreds of autographs and pictures that are distributed and taken each season.
The difference here is that the personality is being shown on the ice at the end of an actual regular season game and is specifically directed at the fans. The players on the Hurricanes were not asked to do this by the NHL. They weren’t asked to do this by the Hurricanes management. There was no pressure on them from any direction to do this. The celebration was thought of by the team, planned by the team, executed by the team, and solidified as a tradition by the team.
More franchises should follow in the footsteps of the Hurricanes and I hope this starts a new trend in the NHL. I believe it would be a healthy thing for the NHL to embrace this type of creativity and gratitude.