The excitement leading up to the October 4 home opener for the Carolina Hurricanes escalated throughout the RBC Center. It had been almost four months since the team won the Stanley Cup on that same ice surface, and for many in attendance, it was the last time they had been in those seats (although on June 19, they paid for the whole seat but only used the edge).
It was certainly no secret that the Stanley Cup banner was to be raised Wednesday night, but the anticipation was tantamount to any other great event in your life you know it's going to happen but the adrenalin courses through your body nonetheless.
|To say it was a banner day for the Carolina Hurricanes would be an
understatement! A permanent reminder of the 2006 Stanley Cup championship! (Phil Pritchard)
With the lights dimmed and a hush over the crowd, the public address announcer introduced owner Peter Karmanos and president/general manager Jim Rutherford, who waved to the crowd from the red carpet with thunderous applause welcoming them to the ice surface. The faithful clearly expressed their appreciation of a job exceptionally well done and were showing their appreciation in a most sincere and appropriate manner. Then, the newest players were introduced, followed by the returning Stanley Cup champions. All the players lined up along the blueline.
The video screens showed highlights from the Stanley Cup championship final and subsequent celebration. The spotlights then trained on three spots on the ice just above the goal crease in Carolina's end, with the Stanley Cup located right there. Mr. Karmanos, Jim Rutherford, captain Rod Brind'Amour and assistants Glen Wesley, Cory Stillman, and Kevyn Adams then performed the official function of sending the banners skyward Carolina Hurricanes, Eastern Division Champions, Prince of Wales Conference Champions and Stanley Cup champions! You couldn't hear yourself think as the banners fluttered on there way to a permanent residence in the rafters of RBC Center.
In the lobby of the main concourse, the other trophies won by Carolina were exhibited for fans to see the Prince of Wales as conference champions, the Selke Trophy for best defensive forward won by Rod Brind'Amour and the Conn Smythe Trophy, which Cam Ward won as playoff MVP.
Buffalo Sabres were in town, and always prove to be formidable competition. The season seemed to be starting off right, as Eric Staal fired the Hurricanes' first goal of the season late in the first period. The Sabres responded, but Erik Cole then gave the lead back to Carolina. Buffalo tied the game at two, and that's the way regulation ended. After overtime's 4-on-4, the decision went to a shootout, where Carolina failed to score on all three attempts, but Buffalo's Daniel Briere buried his shot to give Buffalo the victory.
"It was a special night," Cam Ward shrugged. "But it's time to turn the page. This was a new game, a new season." And while the Hurricanes proceed to defend their Stanley Cup championship, the Stanley Cup will spend the next week or so visiting locations throughout North Carolina infusing further enthusiasm hockey into the southern United States. Later on, the Carolina Hurricanes will visit the White House with the Stanley Cup as special guests of President George Bush.
It's been a wonderful summer of celebrating and reflecting on a highly successful season for Carolina, but it's now back into the trenches. The Stanley Cup Journal has immensely enjoyed following the adventures of the Stanley Cup in the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes, and we thank you for sharing each entry in the Stanley Cup Journal.