Hockey's popularity not overshadowed by hoops anymore

Posted April 9, 2009

Tobacco road.  College basketball is king in the triangle.  All of the attention is first devoted to the heralded, traditional, historical programs of North Carolina, Duke and N.C. State.  The attention amplifies in March and early April, especially if one of the locals is still playing.

"This is a hockey town now," Hurricanes TV voice John Forslund said Saturday after a 3-2 overtime win over Pittsburgh. "Players around the league know this, conversations that are held about Southeastern markets that are problems, the Hurricanes are out of that conversation."

Last Saturday, April 4 the Carolina Hurricanes entertained the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Both teams are neck and neck fighting for the fourth place spot in the Eastern Conference and home-ice advantage.  The 'Canes won in the extra period in front of 18,680 screaming fans.  It was an electric atmosphere....the same night North Carolina was playing Villanova in the Final Four in Detroit.

"It can happen," Forslund said. "That shows you how major league this area is becoming, it's not 8 thousand fans here and everyone staying home and watching the basketball game.  There are almost 20 thousand people here that still wish they were."

Surprisingly the Hurricanes attendance this season has ramped up as the college basketball season ramped up in February and March.  In the last 15 home games, attendance has only dropped below 18 thousand three times.  In those three games the attendance was still above 17 thousand.  Eight times in that span the crowd reached its 18,680 capacity.

The N.C. State men's basketball team shares the RBC Center with the Hurricanes.  The Wolfpack averaged only 13,372 fans in 16 home games (not including two home games played at Reynolds Coliseum).

The Hurricanes held an attendance average of 16,633 in the 2007-08 season, and is holding right near that mark this year at 16,524. 

General Manager and Vice President Jim Rutherford thought that Saturday night proved Raleigh is a big enough market for both sports.

"But we've had times even going back after we were here three or four years when Duke and Carolina would have a big game in the regular season and we had a game where we had a full house," Rutherford said Wednesday on 99.9FM The Fan ESPN Radio.  "A lot of the people that were at our game were watching the hockey game part of the time and then watching the televisions to see the basketball game."

Rutherford said the biggest difference from than to now is that he never saw that on Saturday, a night when North Carolina was playing in the Final Four.

But John Forslund summed up the coexistence of college basketball and professional hockey best.

"No one ever said the Hurricanes were here to supplant anything, the Hurricanes were here to take a place in the sports world."

And now the triangle is a college basketball hot bed, and also a hockey town.




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  • tarheelskier Apr 10, 2009

    ^^"The Canes are Stanley Cup Champions, and have a good chance at repeating a run this year"

    Dude really??? The Canes won the Cup in '06.... That's like saying the NC State basketball team are NCAA champions.

    Hockey is not overshadowed by hoops anymore b/c hoops is over. Heck this post did not even start until hoops was over, I think that has to tell you something.....

  • tdd Apr 9, 2009

    Yes,there is life after b'ball y'all. Come on guys, The Canes are Stanley Cup Champions, and have a good chance at repeating a run this year. If you've never seen them play,you've missed alot of energy, excitement and enthusiasum. Let's get behind them and root them on, LET'S GO CANES !!!!!!!!!!!

  • CoolYourHeels Apr 9, 2009

    For the person who was asking, a JOMC major at UNC means Journalism & Mass Communication.

  • Bob Sidel Apr 9, 2009

    The only reason college sports get the hype they do in this area is because of the close vicinity of the schools and the rivalry amongst the alumni(not including UNC, 3/4 of their fans didnt go to the school). College sports are exciting but it is technically the minor leagues.

  • SubwayScoundrel Apr 9, 2009

    Growing up in the triangle I watched my share of Basketball, but I am a hockey fan first. I watch some BB but watch, go to, read, live, support the sponsors of the Canes. They are my team.

    I am proud of UNC, go to a lot NCSU football games and love the fact Duke is hear and Wake Forest is just down the road, but GO CANES !!!!!!!!

    And to the first poster.....yes....a hockey fan posted

  • foetine Apr 9, 2009

    the most telling part of this article is "The Wolfpack averaged only 13,372 fans in 16 home games." basically NC State built the RBC Center and now are not merely the tenant, but they're the lousy draw in their own house. They should have just figured out a way to air condition Reynolds instead of allowing themselves to be second class citizens. Ever see the crummy display case where NC State's NCAA trophies sit? My grandmother's Hummel collection is treated better.

    And watching basketball at RBC isn't nearly as intense as Reynolds. That arena was shaped for hockey. The Wolfpack were suckers who gave up all the advantages in that building.

    and if the Canes hadn't brought back Cole, that place would be half empty as the playoffs would once more be a dark time in the red house.

  • 2early4me Apr 9, 2009

    Anyone who doesn't think hockey is here to stay in this area is a fool!

  • 2early4me Apr 9, 2009

    I've been to all three venues (UNC,State,Duke). Nothing, NOTHING beats a Carolina Hurricanes playoff hockey game as far as the excitement and electricity in the atmosphere. I agree, this is something that all three fan bases can use to come together as one. With these three fan bases behind the team, no wonder we're considered one of the toughest and loudest places to play in the NHL. LET'S GO CANES!Bring the Cup back to Raleigh!

  • mroljill Apr 9, 2009


    Why make an asinine comment like that? Just to stir up trouble? Being a UNC graduate if figured you would be intelligent enough not to make comments like that but I guess I was wrong. Speaking of, if you are not a hockey fan then why were you reading the article and making a comment on it? Just curious. One last thing....what is a JOMC major? That is an honest question because I have been trying to figure it out and I have not a clue.

  • RedStatesManWatts Apr 9, 2009

    He's got that right. If we are not at the game then we are watching it on TV. My wife and daughter join my son and I in our "man cave" for every game on TV when we can't make it to the game! Everyone in full 'Canes gear! My family never misses a 'Canes game. Great sport, great home team who we love and the NHL puts out a grade A product. LOVE IT, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!
    GO CANES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




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