A Category 5 of Fun

As The Carolina Hurricanes Surge Up The Standings, Opinions Swirl Around The Team’s Postgame Celebrations

With less than a month left in the NHL season, the Carolina Hurricanes have put themselves in a position to do something they haven’t done since the 2008-09 season – make the playoffs. And they’ve celebrated each step along the way, especially after every hard-earned victory on home ice.


Traditionally, most winning teams simply raise their sticks in unison to the salute the home crowd after a win. When the final whistle sounds, the only thing being raised inside PNC Arena are the decibel levels, via a “Vikings skol” clap, adorned with a celebration to boot.


“Hockey is fun,” said team captain Justin Williams. “We win a game we want to celebrate it.”


The home team’s “Storm Surge” celebration has become the talk of the league, and not always mentioned in the most flattering of terms. A number of old-time talking heads in the hockey media are not amused by all the revelry in Raleigh. Long-time NHL executive Brian Burke called it “unprofessional,” stating it doesn’t belong in the NHL, toting it as “absurdly amateur-ish, Peewee garbage stuff.”


Don Cherry, known for both his colorful suits and outspoken opinions during Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts, called the Canes “a bunch of jerks” for the celebration. 


It’s a label the club, players and their fans have openly embraced. If anything, the negative feedback only puts more wind in their sails.


From their perspective, the Hurricanes mean no disrespect to their opponents, or the game. While time-honored traditions certainly the foundation of the game, Carolina players and their faithful following see nothing wrong with a having a little fun after a hard-fought victory. 


“I like it,” said Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce. “It gets our fans engaged with our players. It brings our team together and it makes our team unique.”


Opinions about how teams should celebrate a goal or a victory generally differ along generational lines. In the eyes of 66-year-old Peter McNab, it’s similar to the varying tastes in music from one generation to the next. 


McNab, a 14-year NHL veteran and current Colorado Avalanche TV color analyst, recalled hearing a song in the car, with one of his daughters and a group of her teenaged friends in tow. In his mind, he hated the song, labeling it the worst song ever. Only to look behind him and see a group of kids singing, dancing, and loving every second of the tune.


“[The Storm Surge], it’s their music,” McNab said. “This is their time to enjoy this. It’s just the idea of this is how they’re enjoying the game that they’re the ones that are playing. They own the game right now, it’s their game.”


The players are truly enjoying the Storm Surge, from creation to completion. They meet on a regular basis to discuss ideas on how to celebrate their next win. Then they compete hard for 60 minutes, and demonstrate their celebration to their fans, who have fallen in love with the post-game festivities.


From a knockout courtesy of former heavyweight boxing champ Evander Holyfield to a spirited game of duck-duck-goose, the celebrations have taken on a life of their own. The Hurricanes are 18-11-4 at PNC Arena this season, and with eight more home games remaining on their schedule, the Canes and their fans are hoping there are more antics on the horizon.


The team has gone through some lean years as of late, and attendance has taken a dip. So when new owner Tom Dundon took over the reins he made it his mission to transform the franchise and the atmosphere inside the building. People in the organization have remarked that this season feels different. And most of them say that it starts at the top.


There’s also been more of a following to witness the transformation. With their last home game, the Hurricanes average attendance mark this season rose above 14,000 people-per-game, a mark they haven’t topped in five years.


Winning helps, as does the frequency of having fun. Fueled by high-octane style of play as well as the second youngest lineup in the league, the Canes have surged to a 22-7-2 record since Jan. 1, and their 46 points tied for 2nd most in the NHL.

 The Hurricanes youth-infused lineup and speed, along with the Storm Surge have provided ample entertainment for fans at PNC Arena in Raleigh this season.The Hurricanes youth-infused lineup and speed, along with the Storm Surge have provided ample entertainment for fans at PNC Arena in Raleigh this season.

While the players are aware of the comments and criticism, they know that the NHL is part of the entertainment industry. There’s nothing quite like the heightened anticipation of awaiting a band to return for an encore after a rocking show. 


For the Hurricanes and their fans, the Storm Surge is their encore.


“It’s certainly grown into something bigger than we’ve expected because really it’s simply just for us and our fans,” Williams said. “It’s really seemed to blossom into something that people are either on one side of the spectrum or the other. They either love it or hate it. Regardless we don’t really care, because it’s not for them, it’s for us and our fans.”


The ability to construct the celebrations has also helped the cohesiveness and chemistry of the group. For a team where only nine of 21 players were primarily playing full-time with the Hurricanes last season, they’re extremely close-knit.


Could the Storm Surge feature more cameos in the future? Quite possibly even the Stanley Cup?


While the image of that celebration remains blurred for now, the group is in the mix of chasing the Cup, something that hasn’t been the case in Carolina for the past nine seasons. They currently have a 93.8 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to sportsclubstats.


“I think it’s really important that you have to believe in each other,” Williams said. “It’s one thing just to say that but the only way that you get better as a team is if you challenge each other to get better. If you challenge each other to get to that next level. We’ve done that.”


If the Hurricanes continue rolling, one of their upcoming challenges may be having to figure out how to keep the celebrations flowing all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. That’s something the players and fans would both enjoy immensely.

And even some of the old guard can appreciate that.


“This is how they want to have fun with their game,” McNab said. “The fans are watching, but the guys are having a good time. Am I’m supposed to tell somebody else how they should celebrate their accomplishment?”

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