In May the Raleigh News & Observer asked its readers whether
they approved of the proposed name, Carolina Hurricanes, for the
city's new NHL franchise, which was relocating from Hartford. In
the following days nearly 3,000 phone calls swamped the paper's
office. A mere 35 of those concerned the Hurricanes' name.
Another 2,921 people called to learn whether a Louisiana high
school basketball star had decided to attend North Carolina
State, which is located in Raleigh. In the heart of ACC
basketball country, it's hardly surprising that the Hurricanes
have sold fewer than 4,000 season tickets at the Greensboro
"Some of the players are wondering if we should have moved,"
says winger Geoff Sanderson. "I'd be lying if I said the guys
weren't concerned that we'll be playing in front of 500 people."
It has become clear that four out of five North Carolinians
believe that icing is what's found on the top of a cupcake. And
speaking of cupcakes, ladies and gentlemen, meet your Carolina
Hurricanes! This is the same team that in the last 18 years has
finished above .500 three times and has won only one postseason
series. It's the only NHL club not to make the playoffs in the
last five years. To change their fortunes, the Hurricanes
engaged in one of the off-season's riskiest gambles. In August
the Hurricanes dealt their second-leading scorer, center Andrew
Cassels, and their best goaltending prospect, Jean-Sebastien
Giguere, to Calgary for forward Gary Roberts and goalie Trevor
Kidd. Roberts, a former 50-goal scorer, is coming off a neck
injury that forced him into temporary retirement, and Kidd's
arrival probably means that goalie Sean Burke, who was the
team's MVP for the last four years and can become an
unrestricted free agent after the season, will be dealt.
Meanwhile, Carolina is hoping for a strong return from
defenseman Jeff Brown, who missed all but one game last year
because of back surgery. The Hurricanes also need breakout
seasons from forwards Keith Primeau, Jeff O'Neill and especially
Sanderson, who proved in the 1997 All-Star SuperSkills
competition that he is among the league's fastest skaters and
hardest shooters. "Going into this season we've got the best
goaltending in the league, good defense and enough offense to
leave room for cautious optimism," says forward Kevin Dineen,
who has played 10 seasons for the franchise, "but this team
always carries a bumper sticker that reads S--- HAPPENS."