Monday, May 4, 2009

Home Ice Advantage

While covering Game 6 between the Hurricanes and Devils last week, a fan bragged to me that the RBC Center was known as the loudest arena in the NHL. Now, it's difficult to believe that a team in the Southeast cranks up more decibels than a franchise in Canada. Of course, I don't have the sound equipment or travel time to test it out, but based on what I've seen around Raleigh since the Canes playoff run began, it's easy to see how the proud fan's claim could possibly be true.

I've been a follower of the Carolina Hurricanes since I was in college at the University of South Carolina. Even before I moved to the Tar Heel State in 2007, I had visited the RBC Center several times to see the Canes in action, and I was always impressed with the atmosphere. But I never imagined it could be the NHL's loudest. That is, until I recently started working in Raleigh on a regular basis. It seems I can't drive around town a few minutes without seeing that red-and-black logo on a flag flying from a car window or home, or on a license plate, bumper sticker or car magnet. Everywhere I turn, there are Canes jerseys, t-shirts, and hats. It's amazing to see the pride Raleigh has in this franchise. Back in the early 1990's, hockey seemed like an almost foreign sport in the Southeast. Now, two Southeastern teams have won Stanley Cups in the past five years. I'm sure college basketball will always be the favorite sport of most North Carolinians, but the Caniacs have a proud presence in this town. They're the reason the RBC Center is such an intimidating environment for opposing teams. And with the top-seeded Boston Bruins coming to town Wednesday night for Game 3 of the second-round series, the Caniacs will be in action once again. They've helped Carolina to a 12-game home winning streak this season, a first round upset over the New Jersey Devils, and now they're taking aim at the Bruins. Are the Caniacs actually the loudest in the NHL? Who knows. But one thing is for sure: the RBC Center will be rockin' with lots of red-and-black pride every time the Canes are home.

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