When Raleigh first began to flirt with the notion of a National Hockey League team in town, it was easy to find the naysayers. Now they don't dare be seen or heard. And there probably aren't that many of them left.
One fellow active in civic events told a group of cynics at a restaurant during that initial debate, "You are going to be amazed, because nothing brings a community together like a professional sports team." He had lived in Denver, he said, and knew it to be true.
Well, with the well-established and Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes now back in the chase for the NHL championship, we can see, again, what he was talking about. A fellow with whom I frequently cross paths at the YMCA is a nutty Carolina fan and a native Tar Heel. But at the Y one night recently, I could hear him on his pedaling machine, looking up at the 'Canes game on TV (the sound was off) and grunting and shaking his arm in the air and criticizing the officials. He was lost in the game, this game none of us understood a few years back.
At that time, some friends gave me a 'Canes sweater (jersey to those unfamiliar with hockey terminology) for my birthday, and some folks there thought it was really funny because hockey was never going to make it.
Who's laughing now?