Tom Dundon: One Year Owner Report Card (Part One)

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Fan interactions

One of the first things that Tom Dundon emphasized when he came on board was interactions for the fans. It was important for this team to know who they were playing for. For Dundon, the Carolina Hurricanes were not only a sports team of athletes, they were an entertainment team of stars. He wanted the fanbase to get an opportunity to interact more with the team. It started as soon as he purchased the team and evolved into something that has rocked the foundation of the NHL world.

Before Tom Dundon, the Carolina Hurricanes would come out onto the ice through their bench. After warmups, only the players starting the game would come out onto the ice and the rest filed into their spots on the bench. Fans with seats around the bench entrance were the only ones with the privilege of greeting them onto the ice via a swath of fists bumps, high fives, and kids demanding pucks and sticks. Tom Dundon had a different idea.

Once he was signed on as the owner, Dundon asked for more player interaction. He envisioned a fan tunnel that allowed several fans to engage and personally cheer on the players before they took the ice. Several options were tried before the corner of the arena was settled upon (it was the shortest distance for the players to walk on their skates). Dundon then took advantage of a long road trip to make immediate changes to PNC arena to help complete his vision of the fan tunnel. These are not the only changes he has made to the arena, but more on that later.

I have personally been in the fan tunnel several times. Season Ticket holders, as well as casual fans, were invited to participate in the fan tunnel at the beginning of each period. For the fans, it’s a great way to meet the players while they are in “go mode” and in full gear before hitting the ice. For the players, it is a safe way to interact with the fans and look them in the eyes before going out and performing for them (without several grabby kids demanding pucks and sticks).

For the organization it is a great way to maximize fan interaction with the players and get the fans invested in them, especially for children. Of course there were rules. Fans had to wear Hurricanes gear. Only fist bumps and high fives were allowed. All this helped build a fan identity with the team. The results poured over into the following year as more and more fans clamored to be a part of the fan tunnel. The fan tunnel continues to be a success as the organization figured how to maximize participation. But Dundon didn’t stop there.

Coming into the 2018-2019 season Dundon asked for more interaction between the fans and the players. This time he allowed the players to come up with something on their own since the fan tunnel was already mandatory on them to participate in. Newly-appointed team Captain Justin Williams came up with a new idea. Dundon, Don Waddell, and newly-appointed Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour didn’t object the idea, and the Storm Surge was born.

The first regular season win at home for the Hurricanes did not come until a thrilling 8-5 win against the New York Rangers that marked their first game in their new third jerseys (more on those later). After the game Justin Williams led the team as they lined up on the blue line with their sticks held high. The fans cheered and suddenly the team started to rhythmically clap. The music continued. The legendary in-house Public Announcer Wade Minter sounded off with his signature “CANES WINNNNN”. Suddenly Williams started to rush to the far side of the ice and the rest of the team followed. Systematically each player crashed into the end boards and the fans roared with glee.

That marked the birth of the Storm Surge which has grown to be a staple and a tradition of winning in PNC Arena. Fans stay long after the game is over just to see who what the team will think of next. They have kayaked across the ice. They have ridden their sticks like brooms. They have even summoned the thunder of the Norse Gods. It rocked the NHL world and hockey in general as many pundits questioned the professionalism of the Surge, while other teams began to imitate them and enjoy the fun of the sport along with their fans.

There are many other smaller ways that the team has interacted with the fans since Tom Dundon has taken ownership. Some of them have been around for years such as the Canes 5k, where many of the players and the Coach showed up to cheer the fans on for a change or run along with them. Canes Bash, and Skate with the Canes, are other examples of that as well. The fan tunnel and the Storm Surge are the two biggest ones that can be directly tied to Tom Dundon.