Last weekend, USA Today named the Carolina Hurricanes’ fan base the best in the NHL.
The reasoning: “Hurricanes fans are on another level these days and it’s showing with a good team,” wrote Jimmy Hascup and Mike Brehm. “They are always loud, they tailgate like they are attending a college football or NFL game and they stick around for the Storm Surge after wins. The fans fill PNC Arena in what’s considered a non-traditional hockey market, and that’s why they get our nod.”
And it’s hard to blame them.
In the six playoff games that the Canes have played at home so far — including Game 7 against the Boston Bruins in the opening round — they haven’t lost once, posting a 6-0 record and outscoring opponents 22-6.
(For reference, when playing outside of Raleigh this post-season, they’re 0-4.)
With stats like that, it’s hard to discount the importance of Carolina’s home ice with the amount of rabid, Cup-hungry Caniacs packing out every game.
As a New York Rangers fan myself — still salty about the incompetent showing in the third period of the Game 1 loss, as well as the Canes refusing to sell tickets to fans located outside of N.C. — I have to admit: PNC Arena scares me.
And yet, as angry as the Canes have made me over the last three games of the series, it’s been refreshing to see the pure passion that fans in Raleigh — and, really, hockey fans in general — have shown throughout these playoffs.
That’s one reason why, if I had to choose, I’d rather spend a night watching Canes-Rangers, Flames-Oilers or just about any other NHL playoff series over the NBA playoffs this year.
I’ve always disliked the die-hard NHL fans who make it a goal to bad-mouth the NBA playoffs, as if it’s a constant competition to see which postseason reigns supreme.
However, this season, the answer is obvious: nothing’s topping the NHL playoffs.
In the first round alone, we saw five Game 7s with all but one being decided by a single goal. (Two of them, might I add, also went into overtime.)
On the NBA front, there have only been two Game 7s through the first two rounds, both of which were second-round blowout wins — the Celtics thrashing the Bucks, 109-81, and the Mavericks pumping the Suns, 123-90.
And even in the series that are close, such as the Eastern Conference Finals between the Celtics and Heat, where the series is tied, 2-2, the games themselves are blowouts back and forth, with three out of four games being decided by 10 points or more.
(That doesn’t even include the Western Conference Finals, which may be over by the time you’re reading this with the Warriors going for the sweep of the Mavericks on Tuesday night.)
But when it comes to the Staney Cup Playoffs, nearly everything has been thrilling.
Of course there’s the occasional blowout and series sweep, but hockey — with its out-of-control fan bases, unpredictable results and heart-stopping overtimes — has just been better.
That is, as long as the Rangers defeat the Canes. If not, then my loyalty lies with the NBA.
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