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Raucous Crowd Sparks Hurricanes on Opening Night

Canes resurrect original Storm Surge after 4-3 shootout win

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

When the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-1 on April 4 to secure their berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a wave of euphoria washed over the crowd of 17,645 at PNC Arena, the ghouls of a 10-year playoff drought exorcised through pure bombastic elation.

Even Petr Mrazek, who had been with the organization for no more than nine months, seemed to somehow capture the playoff-starved crowd's cathartic exuberance with seven simple words and a few emphatic fist pumps: "We're in! We're in! Yes! Yes! Woo!"

Over the next month, the crowds only continued to grow, the noise becoming more deafening with each and every victory. It was a magical, unforgettable ride that ended eight wins too early.

Five months later, on a wickedly hot October evening, the Hurricanes were anxious to return to the ice for the 2019-20 regular season.

Tailgaters weren't discouraged by near triple digit temperatures and fired up their festivities well before puck drop on what would have otherwise been a mundane workday.

Inside PNC Arena, a good 30 degrees cooler, excitement only amplified as game time neared. An already sizeable crowd roared as the team took the ice for warm-ups. An immersive light show powered by LED bracelets hyped the then-full building before player introductions. Former Canes goaltender Cam Ward, sporting one of the team's new white sweaters with Jordan Staal's No. 11 and the captain's C, whipped the building into a frenzy as he cranked the warning siren. By the time the game lights illuminated the ice below, the sellout crowd and the Hurricanes alike were brimming with eager enthusiasm for the journey ahead.

Tweet from @Canes: So how cool was this? ���

Even a malfunctioning goal horn couldn't damper the jubilance of Opening Night.

"They picked up right where they left off last year," noted hype man Jordan Martinook said. "They were loud and into it. They know when the team needs a boost and when to get loud. It's nice to have that in your back pocket when you feel like you're behind a little bit and then they pick you up."

Tweet from @Canes: Thank you to all 18,680 of you for ROCKING @PNCArena tonight! Best fans in the world 👊

The group of 18,680 helped spark the Hurricanes in the third period. Erik Haula smacked in his first goal with his new team, dropped to a knee and pumped his fist as he evened the score, eventually forcing extra hockey.

"I love when the crowd is going. I feel like everybody feeds off that," Haula said. "Tying the game, you could feel the crowd, and we could feed off their energy."

In the shootout, the crowd stood to watch as Dougie Hamilton netted the first and only goal, opening up Carey Price with his quick hands before sliding the puck five-hole. The cheers grew louder as Mrazek made one save and then another, the crowd then erupting as the Canes' fiery netminder shut the door on Nick Suzuki - the brother of Ryan, who the Canes selected 28th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft - to award the Hurricanes their first two points in the standings.

Video: MTL@CAR: Mrazek ends shootout with poke check

Never one to hide his emotions, Mrazek raised a leg and pumped his fist in celebration, shouting along with the crowd, before being mobbed by his teammates.

The anticipation of what might happen next gripped the joyous arena.

"We had talked about it," Martinook said. "We were huddled there, and the crowd got into it."

Hamilton skated to center ice while the 19 other red sweaters lined the team's blue line. The din grew louder, and the clap began.

The Storm Surge was back.

Video: MTL@CAR: Hurricanes celebrate in front of home crowd

"We had to give the people what they wanted," Martinook said. "It just seemed like it all worked out."

The clap sped up, and the team skated down the ice, leaping into the far end boards, a replication of the original Storm Surge.

It was a picture-perfect coda to a season-opening victory that, while featuring a somewhat different cast of characters, hearkened back to the wonderment of a season ago. Wherever this journey takes the 2019-20 Hurricanes, sure to be distinct from the 2018-19 campaign in some form or fashion, the unique bond between the team and the community endures.

"It's about the fans, and they love it," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "They deserve it after last night. It was a special night."

What's next?

"Wait and see," Martinook smiled.

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