When the NHL decided to drop a franchise in Raleigh, North Carolina, half of the hockey community didn't care while the other half collectively rolled their eyes and groaned. If there's one major sport that can be said to belong to some regions more than others, it's probably hockey. And this sport, as far as some are concerned, does not belong in the South.
The Hurricanes have been an inconsistent franchise since landing in Raleigh, but they did win a Stanley Cup in 2006. Also, they have done well enough to avoid any talk of relocating to an area more familiar with and enthusiastic about hockey. But what's a game in Raleigh's PNC Arena really like? Is it full of converted NASCAR fans? Actual hockey supporters? Do the concessions exclusively serve southern BBQ? Read on to find out.
The Arena Is Pretty Standard
The PNC Arena is a fairly nice sports facility. While it doesn't wow you with its size or any particularly state-of-the-art feature, it's a perfectly nice stadium. In fact, it feels more intimate than some major stadiums, and tickets can be cheaper, so really it's a nice visit. Though the endless playing of "Rock You Like A Hurricane" gets pretty old (seriously, this happens).
The Team Isn't Bad
Again, the Hurricanes have had their ups and downs, but this year's edition has rounded into form of late and is actually pretty fun to watch. Furthermore, they're expected to make the playoffs and possibly be competitive. According to betting platform Betfair, the Canes are currently listed with 5/6 odds (tied for third best) to win the Eastern Conference. While this seems optimistic, the idea of the team making the playoffs is legitimate. And in Raleigh, as in any other sports town, the fan support is getting a bit more buzz to it with the team looking competitive.
It Does Get A Bit NASCAR-y
Things do feel country-ish down at the PNC Arena, even if Raleigh itself is probably less of a traditional "Southern town" than most people think in the rest of the company. But in the arena there's a good bit of country music, and you'll certainly see some "characters" in the crowd that look fresh from a Brad Paisley concert. That said, it actually gives a bit of a unique and amusing feel to the Carolina crowd.
Concessions Are Great
If you're wondering about the stadium experience in greater detail, concessions go well beyond Southern BBQ. All the ordinary stadium offerings are supplemented with some craft beer selections, a few Mexican food kiosks, and a generally satisfying array of concessions.
All in all, hockey in North Carolina still feels somewhat weird, and the PNC Arena experience certainly doesn't measure up to the raw intensity of some of the best "hockey town" stadiums throughout the U.S. and Canada. But those who dismiss the Hurricanes as illegitimate or silly may be surprised if they ever attend a game in Raleigh. It's different, yes, but has a certain quality and charm, too.