29 October, 2005

It's a FANFREAKINGTASTIC day for hockey!

Wow. Just…wow.


Tied for first in the East.



People are starting to talk about the ‘Canes now, and not just in connection with Winnipeg (who can just keep their grubby little paws OFF of my team, thank you very damn much) and Paul Allen (who can just sack up, dig into his Microsoft-enriched pockets, and fork over a damn franchise fee if he wants a team that badly).

The team’s hot, kids. I have a feeling that they might get cold water chucked on ‘em tonight in Pittsburgh, but it won’t take away the fact that this team is off to its hottest start since I was wearing diapers (and that is a long damn time ago).

Of all the moves that Jim Rutherford has ever made, bringing in Peter Laviolette may be one of his best. And I say that with a straight face.

When Lavi came into the fold, it came as a big surprise to a lot of us fans and longtime observers of the team—mostly because of who’s running the Hurricanes. Pete Karmanos has a reputation for keeping things “in the family”, so to speak, and encouraging promotion of “company men” from within—so much so that a lot of people are seeing Craig Adams’ return to the Hurricanes fold as a minor-league signing as yet another “favor for a family friend” (which it may well be, but since it’s been made clear that CAdams came back specifically to provide veteran presence in Lowell, it’s neither here nor there in my opinion). Paul Maurice was a promotion from within—so were Kevin McCarthy, Tom Smith (Lowell’s former coach), Tom Rowe (Lowell’s current coach and onetime part-owner of the Hurricanes), and Jeff Daniels.

So why bring in an outsider like Peter Laviolette?

The answer is obvious, even to a company man like Jim Rutherford: There are times when you need new blood, a fresh outlook on things.

Peter Laviolette is that new blood, and with him he has brought an oh so refreshing breath of fresh air. He’s just as much a player’s coach as Paul Maurice is—but he’s not content to “just get by” and muddle through. He genuinely wants to impress, even though he knows that his job is secure. His comments after the Hurricanes’ 5-4 OT loss in Toronto speak to that:

“…we're here to win hockey games.”

No “moral victories”, no “we’re happy to get a point”, none of that. The man wants to win, and he wants to show the fans how truly fun hockey is to watch and to play. I love talking about this team and this coach to people at my job. “Come on out,” I tell them. “You can get tickets for cheap upstairs, and I’ll be glad to sit with you and answer any questions you have or I can hook you up with some folks I know that’ll be glad to welcome you to our house.”

And people are coming to the games.  

Don’t let the cameras fool you, kids—many people sit on the same side of the arena as the cameras, and they sit upstairs (where the cameras generally don’t pan). Attendance is creeping up, in dribs and drabs—and they like what they’re seeing. They’re seeing barnburner firewagon hockey, they’re seeing guys that are enthusiastic about their sport again. My heart swells with love every time I watch a ‘Canes game now, because I see a band of brothers that are having a blast out there.

DAMN I love this team. I love this game.

Go ‘Canes.

A reminder: Today is Eric Staal’s 21st birthday, which means that it’s the last day to submit links for Carnival of the NHL #12—I’ve gotten some good ones so far, and I hope to get more before midnight tonight. Bring ‘em in, kids!