The Carolina Hurricanes had a great season last year. But what most don’t realize is just how big that season was, and how it changed the franchise forever.
One of the biggest offseason questions for the Carolina Hurricanes this summer didn’t involve players or contracts. Fans wanted to know if the team would revive its much-maligned yet beloved Storm Surge postgame celebrations. It didn’t take long to find out.
After the team’s 4-3 shootout win against Montreal in the season opener, most of the 18,680 fans stood and cheered and wondered what was going to happen. The players had been remarkably quiet about it throughout the summer.
When the team circled goalie Petr Mrazek, some of the players seemed confused, but then defenseman Dougie Hamilton, the star of the game, skated to center ice and the familiar Skol clap began, eliciting a roar from the crowd.
The Storm Surge was one of many memorable developments from last season, which included the hiring of rookie head coach Rod Brind’Amour, a trip to the Eastern Conference finals, the drafting of Andrei Svechnikov, and renewed interest from fans. All of those developments will have long-lasting, positive impacts on the franchise.
It’s not too much of a stretch to say 2018-19 might have saved the franchise. The year started with the team on a nine-season postseason drought, attendance at dreadful levels, and rumors that new owner Tom Dundon, who lives in Texas, bought the team with the idea of eventually moving it to Houston, a city long rumored to be interested in an NHL franchise.
The lowest payroll in the league and budget-conscious hires at GM (Don Waddell) and head coach (Rod Brind’Amour) added fuel to speculation about Dundon’s commitment to winning—or at least winning in Raleigh with the Carolina Hurricanes.
When the calendar turned to January, the Carolina Hurricanes languished at the bottom of the standings, but seven wins in eight games lifted the team into playoff contention. As the surge continued, fans returned to PNC Arena in droves, drawn by the winning and the notoriety from The Surge.
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The Carolina Hurricanes averaged 13,245 for their first 20 home games and 15,348 the rest of the season. The momentum continued this offseason, with the team selling $5 million more of season tickets before the end of May.
Carolina is well positioned for a long run of excellence. Half the 20-man opening roster is 25 or younger, including stars Sebastian Aho (22), Teuvo Teravainen (25), Andrei Svechnikov (19), Jaccob Slavin (25) and Brett Pesce (25).
The minor leagues are stocked with talent, and the team owns two first-round picks in 2020 and potentially two second-round picks if Adam Fox plays at least 30 games for the Rangers this season, which seems a given considering he opened the year on the NHL roster.
The Bunch of Jerks may not have won a division or a conference title, but one of the most memorable and important seasons in Hurricanes history deserves to be commemorated with a banner hanging from the rafters at PNC Arena.