Stanley Cup Championship Musings
First of all I will make the full disclosure that I have been to this point a bandwagon fan. I actually was, like many people, resistant to the whole "Southern hockey" deal as an assault on traditional Southern heritage. When the playoffs started I softened that stance because I felt that a Raleigh professional team making a run for a major championship demanded my support so I readily jumped on board even though I knew very little about hockey and even found it tedious. So the past three months have been a learning experience for me as I figured out how the game was played, discovered that even though only 2 or 3 goals are scored there is still plenty to be excited about, and that hockey can be a nice companion sport in the winter to my true love which is college basketball. So, while I rejoice with all Canes fans with the big win, I also know my place as someone who came along a little late in the game and by no means do I put myself on the same level with those hard core fans who have been there since 1997. That being said I can say going forward I will support the Canes and look for great things from them in the future. A few other thoughts: -This is the first professional title in North Carolina history which is huge for the state and the city. It is also huge for the franchise because it should make novice fans like me permanant supporters. I also maintain, as I speculated before Game 5, that this is truly a North Carolina championship that is both inclusive and exclusive in nature. By that I mean all North Carolinians can get behind this win unlike the college basketball titles which tend to address only part of the state's population. In terms of exclusivity I think it very much a North Carolina only championship. I do not say this to disparage fans in South Carolina or Virginia but I am pointing out that the title was won in our capital and is something that North Carolinians can lay greater ownership to in terms of state pride. The two pro teams in Charlotte, though in North Carolina, are considered to be shared by both of the Carolinas. This is also the first time I have been living in a city that won a championship of any kind. -As for the game, the Canes came out and played some impressive hockey. They were the agressors, the put pressure on the Oiler defense, while playing some excellent defense giving up one goal which came after Cam Ward had made two saves on the play already. It was a great effort befitting a veteran and talented team. The moment Rod Brind'Amour took the Cup was sensational as thought years of frustration and desire came pouring out in one incredible moment. -Cam Ward won the Conn Smythe trophy which is the playoff MVP award. Some argued that Brind'Amour should have won it and had the Canes won in five games he would have but Brind'Amour essentially disappeared in Games 5 and 6 but was a factor in Game 7. His locker room leadership provided the Canes the inspiration they needed but unfortunately that does not tabulate in the voting. Not that Ward is not deserving. He mad some impeccable saves throughout the playoffs and his play coming in when Gerber was getting eaten alive by Montreal save the playoff run from complete disaster. -Apparently the anti-Carolina contingent, which seemed to be relagated to traditional hockey cities, can be found in spades among the Charlotte citizenry. Tom Sorenson has a piece on the Charlotte web site which I will not link as not to hand him any free hits. Sorenson, being such a witty fellow, proceeded to denigrate the Canes Game 7 win as only the 393rd biggest game to occur in the state of North Carolina. Among the games he lists which were allegedly more important were all the Panthers home playoff games, games David Thompson played in for NC State, any UNC-Duke game, Ric Flair winning or losing WWF/WCW/WWE wrestling titles, Charlotte Hornets playoff games, NASCAR races, and even some UNCC(yeah I know its Charlotte now but I do not feel like playing nice) basketball games. Wow, jealousy is so unbecoming. I had no idea the people of Charlotte would have reacted with such vitrolic envy over Raleigh having a pro team win the first professional championship in North Carolina history ahead of the Panthers and Bobcats. The sad part about Sorenson is that he plays right into the hands of the national media who still question the placement of a team in Raleigh and some who say the Canes did not deserve the Cup because they do not have "true" fans. Yes, as a recovering anti-hockey guy I can relate to that feeling and I would also say there are more than few bandwagon people jumping on just because they are winning. I also know that the fan base has been truly and permanantly enlarged by this event(myself included and yes I know that places me on probabtion for at least five seasons.) I know that there were 18,000 people at the RBC Center last night who stood the whole game in cheering the Canes to victory. It is unfortunate that there are some people who allow such incredible jealousy to produce this kind of hatred. Sure some people do not like hockey and there are others who cannot go along with it because it eschews Southern tradition. I also think most of those people would agree that regardless of how they feel about hockey or the culture they understand that this is a great moment in the sun for the State of North Carolina. This title gives North Carolina ever greater credence as a state than can support professional sports. Good ol' fashioned North Carolina pride demands that in the very least you give a small cheer for the positive light this sheds on the state and on our capital. And for anyone who cannot stomach the thought of hockey or carries such an incredible level of envy of Raleigh because they got the girl while you were left at the altar should, for the good of the state, remain silent. Believe me, you are doing more harm to the reputation of the state than anything else.