June 9, 2006
Breaking the sound barrier
By AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun
RALEIGH -- The way things are going, Peter Karmanos, owner of the Carolina Hurricanes, is going to have to place a call to his hard-line buddy, Lou Lamoriello, in New Jersey.
"Hey Lou! Could you give me a few tips on how to stage a Stanley Cup parade in a parking lot?"
Like the Devils, the Hurricanes are a team without a town. Their arena is located in the open countryside a few miles from Raleigh, and they are designated as belonging to Carolina. When fans are as scarce as they are for this team, you wouldn't want to limit yourself to only one state.
So although the team's base is in North Carolina, it theoretically belongs to South Carolinians, as well.
Originally, Karmanos and his people thought of finding a name that had a reference to what is known in these parts as The Triangle -- Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.
The Triad was considered as a nickname until it dawned on those responsible for such things that it would be like calling the team the Mafia.
So the team became the Hurricanes, even though Hurricanes rarely do any serious damage in this part of the world. After all, tobacco plants are a fairly sturdy form of vegetation.
And despite appealing to a whole region, the team doesn't have overwhelming support.
Even now, you can still walk up to the box office an hour before the game and buy a ticket -- or a block of tickets.
That may be a reflection of the fact that hockey is not a major sport in these parts -- college basketball being the big draw -- or, it may just be a further indication that commissioner Gary Bettman's year-long shutdown has dealt the sport a debilitating blow in the United States.
More Americans watched women's college softball on television than Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final.
But be that as it may, it now appears, with the Triad holding a 2-0 lead, that the Stanley Cup will soon be coming to these fan-challenged parts.
Then again, maybe the Edmonton fans, who represent the other end of the hockey-appreciation spectrum, may have something to say about it. The Oilers were down 2-0 to the San Jose Sharks, as well, but went back to Edmonton and started the four-game winning streak that sent them to the conference final.
Players always say the right thing about fans: "They're the greatest." And: "They really helped us." And: "They give us a big boost."
Usually, they are exaggerating. But in Edmonton, the fans really are an advantage. They make so much noise when the Oilers are attacking that the visiting defencemen can't communicate with each other or with their goalie.
As the Oilers showed rather graphically on Monday, a lack of communication between a goaltender and a defenceman can be extremely costly.
Already, the Carolina defenders privately admit to being worried. They have called their friends in Detroit, San Jose and Anaheim, and have found that even seasoned veterans say they never having played in such a loud building.
Sound, itself, can be disorienting. But when that sound is directed against you, its effect is increased.
The Hurricanes know that they will have to make some changes in Alberta. They will alter their defensive plays to be somewhat more basic because they know that they can't, as they like to say in football, "audible-ize."
If that is indeed the case, the Oilers get an edge, especially when Ales Hemsky is on the ice.
The Oilers overload on one side when he is out there and they use him as a trailer. No single Edmonton forward concerns the Hurricanes more than Hemsky. It's a situation that cries out for communication. But in Edmonton, when the fans are on their game, communication is impossible.
The Oilers are definitely in a deep hole. But perhaps their fans can help them out of it.
And enjoy a real parade.