06 August, 2005

Here, have a nice dose of hard reality.

It's sad, but true--nobody wants to come here. Stillman? I think we were the only team that made him any kind of an offer--and Gary Roberts helped us out by telling him how nice a place it is for a guy with a family. Tverdovsky? We were the only team that would even talk to him. I mean, shit. Bryan fucking Berard was offered the exact same money and length of contract by us that C-bus offered, from all accounts--and he went to C-bus instead. I'm willing to bet that Roman Hamrlik saw Rutherford's number on his caller ID and about killed himself laughing--the only way we sign him is if we offer him stupid money. Kariya? Word around the campfire is that we offered him MORE money than Nashville did, and he signed with the Predators--which makes me happy for a dear friend of mine who's a Preds fan, but it's still crushing. Allison? Same thing. Offered more money by us, turned around and signed with the Leafs. The only attempted signing that I'm not complaining about is Aucoin, and that's only cos he got stupid money from the Blackhawks. I mean, he's a good defenseman and all--but not to the tune of 4 bills per. Shit, not even Marty freaking Gelinas--who is STILL loved and worshipped by the fans here--would sign with us.

NOBODY WANTS TO COME HERE, PEOPLE--and here is why (complete with my rebuttal--yay, bet you're excited):

1) We have a reputation for uninspired, uncreative, Minnesota Wild-style boring hockey.

WAS true.

This is a relic from the days of the Great Helmsman, Chairman Mo Teh Coach, and his "play not to lose, defense-defense-defense" system. Offensive creativity was stifled in favor of simply hoping to put the other team to sleep, and players who showed any kind of offensive flair at the expense of defense had a short life expectancy here. People's Exhibit A: Sandis freaking Ozolinsh--an offensive defenseman who was expected to play nothing but defense, and penalized when he did anything even remotely offensive. The man was a combined -29 when he was here, in glaring contrast to everywhere else he played (where the worst +/- he had was -6 in 02-03 with Florida/Anaheim, and a -12 in 97-98 with Colorado). And did the coaching staff try talking to him about it? NO! All Chairman Mo ever did was give him funny looks on the bench--hell, Sandis even commented on that in the N&O. And the fans complained loudly about him (and yes, I will touch on the subject of our fans), the poor sod. Anyway--we have a new coach, a new system, and (for once) a desire to win that actually extends past the players. But they have a long way to go to dispel the myth that we're still playing boring hockey here.

2) We have a reputation for not having any nightlife--or, as that fuckhead who I am ashamed to say was a UND alum former NHLer Dixon Ward once put it, "there's nothing to do in Raleigh".

Not exactly true. There ARE things to do in the Triangle, and there is nightlife--the problem is that it's spread out, so you have to drive to get to it. We don't have an "entertainment district" like Nashville or Philly or Atlanta, but we do have nightlife. We have clubs and restaurants and concerts and stuff, like all those other towns. You just have to know where it is, is all. Shit, I'll friggin' DRIVE PEOPLE AROUND--FOR FREE NO LESS--to show them where it is.

3) We have a reputation for being nothing but ignorant assy rednecks that don't know shit about shit and don't bother coming to games because they don't even know there's a team here.

Partly true.

First--the ign'ant fans bit. We do have a lot of people here that are noobs to the sport, people that expect a fight every shift and get pissed if there isn't one, people that think that what's OK at a college football or basketball game is acceptable even though it's not--but they learn, and learn quickly. I and a LOT of people at the RBC are more than happy to answer questions from newbies. Personally? I love it. I love explaining plays and why the coach has the guys on the ice that he does, and everything else. I love telling people about the history of the team, from all the Hartford-era stories that I gleaned from RonnieFranchise and the other old-timers on fanhome (and ncpen.net) to all the Carolina-era stuff that I was personally there for (like Marty Gelinas' game-winner on the second-to-last night of the regular season that gave us the tiebreaker over Boston for the 8th spot in the East and set the stage for that epic playoff stand against the Devils and 2002). Yes, I freely admit that some of our fans can be assy--but we're a pretty self-policing lot and tend to deal with the idiots quickly (and if all else fails, we have Raleigh's Finest ready to deal with them--as long as they're not octopus-hurling knuckle-chucking firemen from Detroit).

Second--the attendance gripes. It bugs the fuck out of me to hear people saying that nobody cares about the team because there aren't 2938784724 fans in the seats and standing-room only every night at the RBC, while they excuse fans not showing up at the United Center or the Fleet Center because the Blackhawks and Bruins are O6 teams. Uhh...wha? Right. I'll remember, when I see all the Hurricanes bumper stickers and front-plates (NC only has rear license plates) and t-shirts and stuff, that nobody cares. Bah. The "bandwagon" attendance thing is kind of a fact of life here...for now. This is still a college town with a college mindset--for example, there are UNC and Duke fans that refuse to pull for the 'Canes because they play in the same building as NCSU. If they played at the Dean Dome or a building that had been made for the Blue Devils, there are State fans that would be pulling the same damn shit. Why? College mentality--which is why people tend to not show when the Hurricanes are struggling (except 02-03--that was nice). They, like Bruins fans and Blackhawks fans, don't want to be seen as endorsing mediocrity. It happened to Duke when they hit the skids (though really it wasn't that big a skid), it happened to UNC when they hit the skids, it happened to NCSU when they hit the bigtime skids and couldn't even get into the NIfriggin'T. For all the transplants, this is still a bandwagon town, and the bandwagonery isn't helped much by ticket prices that are out of the reach of Joe Sixpack and broke-ass convenience store clerks like me. I think it'll be better this season though, because they're bringing back things like the College Rush program (which gives any college student $10 off upstairs and $20 off in the lower bowl). So hope springs eternal, especially when I see all the kids that are excited because their favorite team is going to be back on the ice. There's your future right there, folks.

Third--not knowing there's even a team here. This is partly the fault of the Hurricanes and their refusal to spend anything above the barest minimum on marketing, and partly the fault of the News and Observer (who, despite having two very good hockey-loving writers in Luke DeCock and J.P. Giglio, still give the Hurricanes short shrift because 1) they're STILL mad that the RBC isn't downtown and 2) the editorial staff are mostly Carolina homers who are irate that the 'Canes play in "NC State's barn"--hell, the Durham Herald-Sun gives better coverage) and local TV stations whose attitude (aside from News14) is one of "who cares about hockey anyway"? Now, you want to talk about somebody who doesn't know shit about shit, let me introduce you to Tom Suiter (WRAL's sports guy) sometime.

So what's the point of this rant? It's partly a vent, and partly a shot at the people in our own fanbase that keep screaming and whining because Jimmy Rutherford isn't signing eleventy billion UFAs for $texas a pop. I'm sick and tired of blind homers that think that everyone and his uncle wants to play for Carolina, WHEN THEY DON'T.

Just because you're a fan of a team, that doesn't mean you have to believe that they can do no wrong.