I want to break the newest AHL team located in….Greensboro, North Carolina. As the Chicago Wolves are dead to us as Carolina Hurricanes fans, I have to wonder if a move for an AHL to Greensboro isn’t in the cards. I already have to get a new velcro wallet featuring the new team, and the “Most Junior Canes Reporter’s” heart was broken when he learned Skates and Stormy won’t be hanging out again, so why not give us a new love in the form of an AHL affiliate in our backyard?
Not to make this all about the “Most Junior Canes Reporter” and myself, but there is a perfect solution that is just waiting to be used. The Carolina Thunderbirds of the FPHL in Winston-Salem. We already love the Thunderbirds, and pulling them close means, as you will see, a lot to more than just us.
Anytime a team moves you have to ask “where they will play?” As cozy as the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Annex is, it is not big enough to hold hopes of housing an AHL team. But the Greensboro Coliseum is plenty big. It houses 22,000 give or take, which is enough for an AHL team. If not a little big. Still room to grow is better than too small. Parking is not bad there either, and there are plenty of way to walk to the Coliseum if you learn them
Up next would be the name. You have to get a cool name. Something you can brand. If the Hurricanes were to pull the Thunderbirds from Winston-Salem to Greensboro, they could pull the name along with them. I argue this would be perfect since the Thunderbirds are already the CAROLINA Thunderbirds and Winston-Salem. Given the history of the team and changing names in new cities, it would only go that they pick up a new name with the new town.
And if history is what they want there are plenty of historical names/events to choose from with connections to Greensboro. They can go well off the traditional historical path with something from the Civil Rights era. Maybe the “TESTERS” or “JUSTIFIED.” As a historian, I would not hate that. But say history isn’t what you want, I proposed the “GREENS”. Too easy? How about the “RIVETS” since Wrangle is based in Greensboro. How about the “O’s?” If you get that one, you win a prize. Should none of those work work for you, there is a veritable cornucopia of options that could lead to some awesome branding. I’m on board for just about anything.
Mix in the right color scheme and BAM! It’s there. If you go with some jean related, blue would be the way to go. Of course there are options with green. If you went with the Civil Rights route, you would have to go with a sharp gray and white with some black. Harken back to the classic suit of the era.
And how about rivals? Ummmmm….the Charlotte Checkers much? Two AHL teams in North Carolina is a made for TV movie in the making, not to mention great hockey. In a state that knows a thing or two about rivalries, what’s one more? Each team would basically get a few extra home games in the season since Charlotte is an hour and change from GSO. Given the history of the Carolina Hurricanes and the Charlotte Checker would only add a layer. Plus you have the rich man (Charlotte), poor man (Greensboro) geographic element for icing on the top.
When you factor in the relatively short drives between Charlotte, the Triad and the Triangle look at all an AHL team in Greensboro would do for hockey in North Carolina. What better way to drive the “North Carolina is a hockey state” point even further home? AHL in the Triad and Charlotte, SPHL in Fayetteville (the Marksmen), NHL in the Triangle, club hockey teams sprouting up at ECU (down east) and Appalachian State (mountains) to join Duke, NC State, UNC (Piedmont), and UNC-W (beach). No matter if you were in the mountains, at the beach, or like us here in the middle (close to the mountains AND the beach) you would have plenty of hockey at your beck and call with an additional AHL team in Greensboro.
What other southeastern state is that covered for hockey? Tennessee is not. Nashville is too far to draw east Tennessee in (trust me) though the University of Tennessee has a very good club team. Virginia has the Capitals but that is NOVA. As anyone from the Commonwealth, they’ll tell you “NOVA ain’t Virginia.” The other Carolina? Forget it. Charleston has the Stingrays and that…is…it. Florida, has to NHL teams, but Florida is..well…Florida. Georgia, and Alabama have minor league teams but Atlanta has failed twice to keep an NHL team. North Carolina would be stacked with a capital S when it came to hockey.
Pulling back to a little, things get a little more realistic. First there is the idea of North Carolina’s NHL team that close by. The Hurricanes can be a boon in that if scheduled properly, but that can be a problem too. When games overlap, fans would likely take the AHL game at a cheaper price, than trek to see the Canes and pay more. The natural rivalry would create to rapid fanbases that have the potential to draw away from the Hurricanes, especially when it come to ticket prices. And dodging two AHL teams might be tough when you consider there is another fly in the soup bowl.
That’s right, my alma mater (one of several) the University of North Carolina- Greensboro, along with all the other college basketball teams in the state that take to the hardwood in the middle of hockey season. And there are PLENTY in North Carolina. Dodging a college basketball schedule is doable. PNC Arena does it every year, and has to deal with the state fair to boot. But, to dodge a college basketball schedule AND an NHL team would be a challenge for an AHL team in the Greensboro market. Given that the two AHL teams and the Canes would share a fanbase, only to have it pulled in a third way when it comes to the college basketball season would be tough. Try as hockey might, there still will be those lost souls who would chose round ball over frozen puck.
And what of the Carolina Thunderbirds in Winston-Salem? Having been around Winston-Salem and Greensboro as I have, I know that rivalry is steep. For Greensboro to steal the beloved Thunderbirds would be a point of serious contention. After the season the Carolina Thunderbirds have had this year, it would sting that much more. But, that could be assuaged by keeping the name. If you have read anything I have written about the team this year, several of the players have produced AHL numbers, so keeping a few of them around would be a great way to smooth ruffled feathers.
If the Carolina Hurricanes plop an AHL team in Greensboro, you heard it here first. You can thank me tomorrow when you cannot stop thinking about how awesome it would be. Between not one but two AHL teams, an SPHL team in Fayetteville, the Carolina Hurricanes, and club hockey at your university of choice, there would be the chance to have hockey any night of the week. And all of it within a 2 hour drive. If that is not a beautiful thought, you can stay home and eat plain crackers.