There’s fan loyalty, and then there’s putting up with stuff you shouldn’t have to put up with.
Carolina Hurricanes have been subjected this season to more losses than they should. In a move not often seen by NHL fan bases, the Hurricanes’ fans have expressed on social media their unwavering support for the team. After a shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings, Hurricanes fans expressed they were proud of an “almost” win. After another shootout loss on Tuesday to the Chicago Blackhawks, there were tweets and posts proclaiming fans were “still proud” of the team. An opening night loss to the Detroit Red Wings was met with expressions of loyalty quite similar. Only the savage beating administered by the Pittsburgh Penguins brought with it any sort of frustration, and even those were mild by comparison. Again, this sort of loyalty by fans is entirely unheard of in hockey, or any professional sport, really.
Hurricanes fans…you don’t have to take this.
Think back to the ending of the 2011-12 season. You may or may not remember this, but the Toronto Maple Leafs had failed to make the playoffs yet again. Toronto fans have put up with a lot in their time, yet they had pretty much had enough, and the natives were getting restless. It was at that point that Laurence Tannenbaum, CEO of Maple Leaf Entertainment issued an “Open Letter To Fans.” Not many folks outside of Toronto read this letter, and many of us don’t remember its contents verbatim. Here are a few highlights.
“We have fallen short of everyone’s expectations, and for that we are sorry. We take full responsibility for how this team performs on the ice, and we make no excuses.”
“All of the resources at our disposal will be used to make sure the entire organization is focused on making the Leafs a successful playoff team. We are 100% committed to ensuring we ice a team that competes with the NHL’s best. Passion, hard work, and accountability will be the hallmarks of our organization.”
“Our entire organization wants nothing more than to deliver a team that makes you proud.”
That should make anyone who reads it, immediately say “wow” — and out loud. The best part of that? The very next season, Toronto went right out, made the playoffs, and took a good run at it before falling to the Boston Bruins. For a team that failed to make the playoffs for the prior seven seasons and promised fans they would turn it around, this is what a team needs to be doing.
Where is this attitude from Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford? Or team owner Peter Karmanos? The Hurricanes haven’t seen the postseason since 2009 and have continued to put top shelf talent on the ice like Eric Staal, Cam Ward, and others. When looking at the numbers there is absolutely no reason the Hurricanes shouldn’t be turning in win after win on a nightly basis. Nobody is going to go undefeated, but to come up short as often and regularly as Carolina is, should not be acceptable. There is no column for “hard fought loss”, only wins.
Should Hurricanes fans burn their jerseys and season tickets in the PNC Arena parking lot? Absolutely not. Should they stop going to games and tuning in to broadcasts? Never. However, should they continue to express blind support for a losing team in social media, newspaper, radio, and any other form of communication? That is the biggest “no” there is.
Rutherford, and the rest of the Hurricanes management will continue to accept losses as “hard fought losses” so long as the fan base allows them to. Only when fans begin turning on the team in public will management realize there’s a problem.
Things must change in Raleigh. Whether a new coach, a new GM, or fresher talent — something must change. The complacency and laziness of the Hurricanes front office has done nothing to help fans see playoff hockey. There’s no reason to defend a losing team in public by saying they only need to work on this aspect or that aspect. They need to win hockey games, and that should be the only thing fans ask for.
Hurricanes fans, you don’t have to take this, and you sure don’t have to take it with a smile. Demand more and hold your team accountable. Leafs fans did.