The PNC Center in Raleigh is starting to smell of losing, as the Carolina Hurricanes have been on a rapid decline on the ice and in the stands. The franchise formally nicknamed the Cardiac Canes have missed the playoffs five straight years and nine out of the last eleven seasons. The bulk of the fan base, transplanted Northerners, have deserted the team and created questions about the longevity of the still relatively young franchise.
Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos has been informally looking for buyers at a price of $420 million, despite the team being appraised at only $220 million. Seattle, Quebec and Las Vegas have expressed interest in obtaining an NHL team, and they all could be possible destinations.
The Hurricanes relocated the Hartford Whalers 17 years ago. The Whalers logo still remains among the top in the NHL merchandising sales despite not having an NHL team. Adam Sandler and Megan Fox are just some of the celebrities that have sported the retro Whaler logo.
Hartford was smallest market in the NHL and was given little chance of survival when Karmanos purchased the team in 1994. The former Whalers are one of the few franchises to announce their intention to move locations without having a destination secured. Whaler fans did not desert their team, Karmanos did it for them when he violated his promise of keeping the team in Hartford for four years after he took over operations.
Hockey is not like baseball, basketball and football. The players are approachable for the most part, and not concerned with the glamour that comes with playing a professional sport. Hockey does not possess the mass appeal like the NFL, but its fans are the most loyal and die-hard out of all major sports. Hartford stepped up when they were asked to increase ticket sales to keep the team but the decision had already been made to move, and seek a bigger and more lucrative market.
Ironically, low attendance on average of close to 12,000 a game was the primary reason for the move from Hartford, yet as the Hurricanes continue their rapid decline they are approaching that number. Professional sports is a business, but it is a shame that a loyal fanbase such as the Whalers’ were robbed of a team. That team now exists in an empty arena until the fairweather fans return when the Hurricanes start winning or relocate somewhere else which has little hockey history, but a need for a trendy novelty.