STADIUM DUDE’S NHL ARENA RANK: #29
- Location: Raleigh, NC
- Opened 1999
- Capacity 18,680
- Games attended: 1
- Last visited: 2019
With its temperate climate and fun downtown, Raleigh made a very positive impression on me.
But it’s not a hockey market. You’re in (college) basketball country. Attendance is directly tied to the on-ice performance, falling drastically in poor seasons, rebounding in strong ones. Add a non-central arena location, and the result is an often partially-filled rink.
The fans who DO show up tend to be festive, friendly and loud. Fans’ hockey knowledge varies from “die-hard” to “person who would try an open a puck if they caught one”. Attendees are treated to several new traditions unique to the team. In 2018-19, the Canes adopted the “Storm Surge” following a win: a choreographed full team celebration that fans loved and hockey purists hated. When Canadian curmudgeon Don Cherry called them, “A Bunch of Jerks”, the Canes adopted that moniker and have been using it in marketing materials since. The sounding of the pregame hurricane warning siren helps get the crowd pumped up. They have a pig mascot and a live pig “good luck charm” to honor North Carolina BBQ. The Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane” gets used appropriately throughout the game. And they use attractive cheerleaders to bring a little extra oomph to the in-arena experience.
The barn itself, like most, is quite nice. Fans enjoy wide concourses, comfy padded seats, and a good selection of concessions. Location isn’t great. It’s next to the NC State football stadium in West Raleigh and only has one notable watering hole/eatery within walking distance. A different option for pre-gaming, especially for those who are staying downtown, is to patronize of one the several central bars and restaurants who participate in the Caniac Coach program and enjoy a free shuttle to and from the game. Or, if the weather is OK, you could tailgate with some of the other Canes fans.
Out-of-towners should time their visit to see a good on-ice Canes team in a full building for much better experience. Or if the schedule permits, tack a Canes match onto a Duke-North Carolina rivalry game to make for a fabulous sports weekend in a cool city.