The Carolina Hurricanes are a professional ice hockey team based in Raleigh, North Carolina. They are members of the Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The Hurricanes play their home games at the 18,680-seat PNC Arena. The franchise was formed in 1971 as the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association (WHA), and joined the NHL in 1979 as part of the NHL–WHA merger, renaming themselves the Hartford Whalers. The team relocated to North Carolina in 1997 and won its first Stanley Cup during the 2005–06 season, beating the Edmonton Oilers, four games to three.
The New England Whalers were established in November 1971 when the World Hockey Association (WHA) awarded a franchise to begin play in Boston, Massachusetts. For the first two years of their existence, the club played their home games at the Boston Arena and Boston Garden. With the increasing difficulty of scheduling games at Boston Garden (owned by the NHL rival Boston Bruins), the owners decided to move the team to Hartford, Connecticut, beginning with the 1974–75 season. While waiting for the completion of a new arena in Hartford, the Whalers played the first part of the season at The Big E Coliseum in West Springfield, Massachusetts. On January 11, 1975, the team played its first game in front of a sellout crowd at the Hartford Civic Center Coliseum, and would maintain its home there through 1997.
As one of the most stable WHA teams, the Whalers, along with the Edmonton Oilers, Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets, were admitted to the NHL when the rival leagues merged in 1979. However, under pressure from the extant NHL team in the New England area, the Boston Bruins, the Whalers were compelled to rename the team the Hartford Whalers. The Whalers were never as successful in the NHL as they had been in the WHA, recording only three winning seasons. They peaked in the mid-to-late 1980s, winning their only playoff series in 1986 over the Nordiques before bowing out in the second round to the Montreal Canadiens, taking the Habs to overtime of Game 7 in the process. The next year, the club secured the regular-season Adams Division title, only to fall to the Nordiques in six games in the first round of the playoffs. In 1992, the Whalers made the playoffs for the final time, but were bounced in the first round in seven games by the Canadiens.
The organization retains many Whaler connections among its off-ice personnel; in addition to many members of executive management and the coaching staff, broadcasters Chuck Kaiton, John Forslund and Tripp Tracy (at the time a minor-league player), and equipment managers Wally Tatomir, Skip Cunningham and Bob Gorman all made the move to North Carolina with the team. Finally, the old goal horn from the Hartford Civic Center remains in use at PNC Arena how to use a meat tenderizer mallet.
The Whalers were plagued for most of their existence by limited marketability. Hartford was the smallest American market in the league, and was located on the traditional dividing line between the home territories for New York City and Boston teams. It did not help matters that the Hartford Civic Center was one of the smallest arenas in the league, seating just over 15,000 people for hockey. The Whalers‘ off-ice problems were magnified when the start of the 1990s triggered a spike in player salaries.
Despite assurances made when he purchased the team in 1994 that the Whalers would remain in Hartford at least through 1998, in March 1997, owner Peter Karmanos announced that the team would move elsewhere after the 1996–97 season because of the team’s inability to negotiate a satisfactory construction and lease package for a new arena in Hartford. On May 6, 1997, Karmanos announced that the Whalers would move to the Research Triangle area of North Carolina and the new Entertainment and Sports Arena (ESA) in Raleigh. Due to the relatively short time frame for the move, Karmanos himself thought of and decided upon the new name for the club, the Carolina Hurricanes, rather than holding a contest as is sometimes done. Later that summer, the team dropped the Whalers‘ colors of blue, green and silver for a new black-and-red scheme, matching the colors of the North Carolina State University Wolfpack, with whose men’s basketball team they would share the arena in Raleigh. The Hurricanes inherited the Whalers‘ place in the Northeast Division.
Unfortunately for the team, the ESA would not be complete for two more years. The only arena in the Triangle area with an ice plant was 45-year-old Dorton Arena; at 5,100 seats, it was completely inadequate even for temporary use. The Hurricanes were thus forced to play home games in Greensboro, 90 minutes west of Raleigh, for their first two seasons after the move. However, the team would be based in Raleigh and practice in nearby Hillsborough—effectively saddling the Hurricanes with 82 road games for the next two years. This choice was disastrous for the franchise’s attendance and reputation. With a capacity of over 21,000 people for hockey, the Greensboro Coliseum was the highest-capacity arena in the NHL. However, Triangle-area fans balked at making the 80-mile drive down I-40 to Greensboro. Likewise, fans from the Piedmont Triad mostly refused to support a lame-duck team that had displaced the popular Greensboro/Carolina Monarchs minor-league franchise. As a result, while the opening game drew a sellout (and is still the largest home crowd in franchise history), most games in Greensboro attracted crowds of 10,000 or fewer. The crowds looked even smaller than that in the cavernous environment. Furthermore, only 29 out of 82 games were televised (over-the-air and cable combined), and radio play-by-play coverage on WPTF was often pre-empted by Wolfpack basketball (for whose broadcasts WPTF was the flagship station) stainless steel water bottle filter, leaving these games totally unavailable to those who did not have a ticket. With by far the smallest season-ticket base in the NHL and attendance figures routinely well below the league average, Sports Illustrated ran a story titled „Natural Disaster,“ and ESPN anchors mocked the „Green Acres“ of empty seats; in a 2006 interview, Karmanos admitted that „as it turns out, [Greensboro] was probably a mistake.“ Under the circumstances, the Hurricanes managed to stay competitive, but still finished last in the Northeast Division with 74 points, nine points out of the playoffs.
For 1998–99, the Hurricanes curtained off most of the upper deck, lowering the Coliseum’s listed capacity to about 12,000. Attendance continued to lag; most games attracted crowds of well under 10,000. On the ice, however, the ‚Canes were now out of the doldrums; led by the return of longtime Whalers captain Ron Francis, Keith Primeau’s 30 goals and Gary Roberts‘ 178 penalty minutes, they tallied their first winning season and playoff appearance since 1992. They also won the new Southeast Division by eight points, only their second division title as an NHL team (following the 1987 Adams Division title as the Whalers). However, tragedy struck hours after the team’s first-round loss to the Bruins, when defenceman Steve Chiasson was thrown from his pickup truck and killed in a single-vehicle drunk-driving accident.
Despite their move to the brand-new ESA, the Hurricanes played lackluster hockey in 1999–2000, failing to make the playoffs. In 2000–01, however, they claimed the eighth seed, nosing out the Boston Bruins, and landed a first-round match-up with the defending champions, the New Jersey Devils. Although the Devils eliminated the Hurricanes in six games, the series is seen as the real „arrival“ of hockey in the Triangle. Down 3–0 in the series, the Hurricanes extended it to a sixth game, thereby becoming only the tenth team in NHL history to do so. Game 6 in Raleigh featured their best playoff crowd that year, as well as their loudest. Despite the 5–1 loss, Carolina was given a standing ovation by their home crowd as the game ended, erasing some of the doubts that the city would not warm up to the team.
The Hurricanes made national waves for the first time in the 2002 playoffs. They survived a late charge from the Washington Capitals to win the division, but expectations were low entering the first round against the defending Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils. However, Artūrs Irbe and Kevin Weekes were solid in goal, and the Hurricanes won two games in overtime as they defeated the Devils in six games. Their second-round matchup was against the Montreal Canadiens, who were riding a wave of emotion after their captain Saku Koivu’s return from cancer treatment. In the third period of Game 4 in Montreal, down 2–1 in the series and 3–0 in the game, Carolina would tie the game and then win on Niclas Wallin’s overtime goal. The game became known to Hurricanes fans as the „Miracle at Molson“; Carolina won the next two games by a combined 13–3 margin over a dejected Habs club to take the series.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, Carolina met the heavily-favored Toronto Maple Leafs. In Game 6 in Toronto, the Leafs‘ Mats Sundin tied the game with 22 seconds remaining to send it to overtime, where Carolina’s Martin Gelinas would score to send the franchise to their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance. During this series, several Hurricanes fan traditions drew hockey-wide media attention for the first time: fans met the team at the airport on the return from every road trip, and echoed football-season habits honed for games across the parking lot by hosting massive tailgate parties before each home game, a relative novelty in the cold-weather-centric NHL. Inside the building, the CBC’s Don Cherry lauded the RBC Center as „the loudest building in the NHL“, praise that would be echoed in 2006.
In the Stanley Cup Finals, Carolina would face the Detroit Red Wings, thought to be the prohibitive favorite all year. Though the ‚Canes stunned the Wings in Game 1, when Ron Francis scored in the first minute of overtime, Detroit stormed back to win the next four games. Game 3 in Raleigh featured a triple-overtime thriller eventually won by Detroit’s Igor Larionov, the oldest player to score a last-round goal.
The Hurricanes looked poised to pick up where they left off in 2002–03, but never recovered from a 10-loss January and finished dead last in the league with 61 points. After a similarly slow start to the 2003–04 season, Paul Maurice, who had been the team’s coach since midway through their next-to-last season in Hartford, was fired and replaced with former New York Islanders bench boss Peter Laviolette. Under Laviolette, Weekes remained tough, but the offense was suspect; center Josef Vasicek led the team with a mere 19 goals and 26 assists for 45 points. Many of the new fans attracted to the team (and to hockey itself) during the 2002 playoff run lost interest and attendance declined. One of the few positive results of these losing years, however, was the team’s drafting of future star Eric Staal in 2003.
The outcome of the 2004–05 NHL lockout led to the shrinking of the payroll to $26 million. The Hurricanes, however, turned out to be one of the NHL’s biggest surprises, turning in the best season in the franchise’s 34-year history. They finished the regular season with a 52–22–8 record and 112 points, shattering the previous franchise records of 94 points (in the WHA) set by the 1972–73 Whalers and 93 points (in the NHL) set in 1986–87. It was the first time ever that the franchise had passed the 50-win and 100-point plateaus. The 112-point figure was good for fourth overall in the league, easily their highest overall finish as an NHL team (tied with the third-overall Dallas Stars in points, but with one fewer win than the Stars) and second in the East (one point behind the Ottawa Senators). The Hurricanes also ran away with their third Southeast Division title, finishing 20 points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Attendance increased from 2003–04, averaging just under 15,600 per game, and the team made a profit for the first time since the move from Hartford.
In the playoffs, after losing the first two games of the conference quarterfinal series against the Montreal Canadiens, Laviolette lifted goalkeeper Martin Gerber – who had been struggling to regain his form after playing through a bout of intestinal flu – in favor of rookie Cam Ward. The Hurricanes went on to win both games in Montreal, tying up the playoff series and turning the momentum around, winning the series on a Game 6 overtime goal by Cory Stillman. Carolina then faced the New Jersey Devils in the conference semi-finals, which proved surprisingly one-sided, as the Hurricanes beat the Devils in five games. Stillman struck again, once again scoring the series-winning goal.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Hurricanes faced the Buffalo Sabres, who had finished just one spot behind the Hurricanes in the overall standings. The contentious series saw both coaches – Lindy Ruff and Laviolette – taking public verbal shots at each other’s team, but in the deciding Game 7, the Hurricanes rallied with three goals in the third to win by a score of 4–2. Rod Brind’Amour scored the game winner as the Hurricanes reached the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in team history.
The Stanley Cup Finals were against the Edmonton Oilers, the first time in NHL history that two former WHA franchises had played against one another in the finals. The Hurricanes rallied from a 3–0 deficit in Game 1 to win 5–4 after Rod Brind’Amour scored with 30 seconds left. In Game 2, the Hurricanes shelled the Oilers 5–0 to take a two-game lead. The Oilers won Game 3 in Edmonton, 2–1, as Ryan Smyth scored the game-winning goal with 2:47 left to play. Carolina rebounded in Game 4 with a 2–1 victory custom football shirts, and came home with a chance to win the Cup on home ice. However, Game 5 saw the Oilers come back with a stunning 4–3 overtime win on a shorthanded breakaway by Fernando Pisani. In Game 6 in Edmonton, Carolina was soundly defeated 4–0; the only bright point for the Hurricanes was the return of forward Erik Cole from a broken neck that had sidelined him since March. In Game 7, before the second-largest home crowd in franchise history (18,978), the Hurricanes won 3–1, sealing the Hurricanes‘ first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history. Ward was honored with the Conn Smythe Trophy for the playoffs‘ most valuable player, becoming just the fourth rookie to be honored with the award. Several Hurricanes raised the Cup for the first time in their long NHL careers; Rod Brind’Amour and Bret Hedican had both played over 15 years without winning the Cup, while Glen Wesley – the last remaining Hartford Whaler on the Hurricanes‘ roster – had waited 18 seasons.
The Hurricanes Stanley Cup championship marked the first professional major league sports title for a team from North Carolina. As well, they were the first NHL team to win the Stanley Cup despite losing at least nine playoff games in that year; the 2011 Boston Bruins, the 2014 Los Angeles Kings, and the 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins are the only other teams to have accomplished the feat.
The Hurricanes were unable to follow up their success. Losing four players to free agency in the offseason and 222-man games to injury during 2006–07, the team struggled throughout the regular season, and once eliminated in the last game, the Hurricanes finished third in the Southeast and 11th overall in the Eastern Conference. This finish made them the first champions since the 1938–39 Chicago Black Hawks to have failed to qualify for the playoffs both the seasons before and after their championship season, and the third champion overall to not defend its title after both the Black Hawks and the 1995 New Jersey Devils. In 2007–08, Carolina again missed out as Washington Capitals stormed back to take the division title on the last day of the season, leaving the Hurricanes second in the division and ninth overall in the conference, and making the ‚Canes only the second club in NHL history to miss the playoffs for two seasons running after a Cup triumph.
After a slow start to the 2008–09 season, Cup-winning coach Peter Laviolette was fired in early December and replaced by his own predecessor, Paul Maurice. Teetering on the edge of the playoff picture again, the club, on February 7, acquired utility forward Jussi Jokinen from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Wade Brookbank, Josef Melichar and Carolina’s fourth round draft pick in 2009, then reacquired winger Erik Cole from the Edmonton Oilers at the March trade deadline and proceeded on a 12–3–2 run to close out the season. The stretch run included nine straight wins, matching a franchise record from the 2005–06 season, and capped off a streak of 12 straight home wins, which set a new franchise mark. The team finished sixth in the Eastern Conference with 97 points, the second-most points in franchise history.
The Canes‘ 2009 playoff run featured two tight series with dramatic finishes. Game 4 of the first round matchup with the New Jersey Devils saw Stanley Cup playoff history when Jussi Jokinen scored with .2 seconds left in regulation to win the game, the latest regulation game-winning goal in NHL history. Then, in Game 7, the Devils took a 3–2 lead into the final two minutes of the game at the Prudential Center in Newark before the ‚Canes struck. With 1:20 to play, Tim Gleason saved a puck on his knees at the right point, passed it to Joni Pitkanen on the left boards, who then hit Game 4 hero Jussi Jokinen at the far post for the tying goal. Just 48 seconds later, Chad LaRose sprang Eric Staal for a solo down-ice rush to give the Canes 4–3 game and series wins; Staal’s goal was the latest regulation Game 7 winning goal in playoff history. In the second round matchup with the top-seeded Boston Bruins, the ‚Canes ran out to a 3–1 lead before the Bruins battled back for two wins. In Game 7 in Boston, Scott Walker scored the game and series winner 18:46 into overtime to send Carolina to the Eastern Conference finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins, though, put a decisive end to the ‚Canes‘ string, sweeping the series 4–0 on the way to their own Stanley Cup championship.
As a result of their surprise run, very few changes were made in the off-season. Veterans such as Aaron Ward, Andrew Alberts and Stephane Yelle were brought in to help drive the team further, but things did not go according to plan. The Hurricanes experienced a 14-game losing streak spanning October and November, and midway through the year, the ‚Canes replaced their only post-lockout captain Rod Brind’Amour with Eric Staal. Despite improved play during the second half of the season, they could not overcome the deficit from early on in the season. The Hurricanes would end up with the seventh overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, eventually selecting Jeff Skinner from the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Brind’Amour retired over the 2010 off-season to take a coaching job with the club.
The 2010–11-year was widely expected to be a transitional year from the veteran-heavy, high-salary club that opened 2009–10 to a younger, cheaper base. The ‚Canes, though, contended for a playoff slot for the entire season, aided by Skinner’s emergence as an offensive phenomenon who, as the youngest player in the league, would lead all rookies in points. Raleigh hosted the 2011 NHL All-Star Game in January running bag for phone, and Eric Staal captained a team he selected (opposite a team selected by the Detroit Red Wings‘ Nicklas Lidstrom) that featured Skinner (the youngest All-Star in NHL history), Cam Ward, and (for the SuperSkills competition) defenseman Jamie McBain. The Hurricanes went into the final day of the season able to determine their own fate, but lost 6–2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning to finish ninth in the East. Skinner was awarded the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, the first player in franchise history to receive that honor.
In December 2011, the Carolina Hurricanes fired coach Paul Maurice and hired Kirk Muller. On February 20, 2012, the Carolina Hurricanes signed Tim Gleason to a four-year, $16 million extension and two days later, on February 22, they also signed Tuomo Ruutu to a four-year, $19 million extension. Two months later the Carolina Hurricanes announced that they had signed Jiri Tlusty to a two-year deal that would pay him $1.5 million for 2012–13 and $1.7 million for 2013–14 (Gleason and Tlusty would eventually be traded to the Washington Capitals and the Winnipeg Jets over the next few seasons). Despite the signings of Gleason, Ruutu, and Tlusty, the Hurricanes would finish fifth in the Southeast Division and twelfth in the Eastern Conference during the 2011–12 season, which forced them to miss the playoffs for a third consecutive season.
On May 9, 2012, the 2006 Stanley Cup Champions Carolina Hurricanes‘ Game 7 victory was recognized as one of the NC Hall of Fame’s „Great Moments“ series. During the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the Carolina Hurricanes traded Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and their 2012 first round draft pick (Derrick Pouliot) to the Penguins in exchange for Jordan Staal, uniting the player with his older brother, Eric Staal. On March 25, 2013, the Hurricanes signed Alexander Semin to a five-year deal, worth $35 million. However, in the lockout-shortened 2012–13 season, the team would finish third in the Southeast Division and thirteenth in the Eastern Conference, which would make the team miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
Before the 2013–14 season, the Hurricanes were realigned into the new Metropolitan Division. They would finish seventh in the division during the 2013–14 season (ahead of only the New York Islanders) and would miss the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, which prompted management to fire head coach Kirk Muller. On June 19, 2014, Bill Peters was named head coach of the team. During the 2014–15 season, the team finished last in the Metropolitan Division and would miss the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. After team captain Eric Staal was traded to the New York Rangers at the trade deadline, the team finished sixth in the division during the 2015–16 season. The Hurricanes finished seventh in the division in the 2016–17 season, missing the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season. On July 13, 2017, it was reported that Chuck Greenberg had sent Karmanos a letter of intent to buy the team for $500 million.
This is a list of the last five seasons completed by the Hurricanes. For the full season-by-season history, see List of Carolina Hurricanes seasons
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against
Updated December 18, 2017
The Hurricanes also honor three numbers within the organization, but do not display their banners publicly:
Besides the above numbers, Wayne Gretzky’s No. 99 is also retired for the Hurricanes, having been retired for all the NHL’s member teams at the 2000 NHL All-Star Game.
Note: This list of team captains does not include captains from the Hartford Whalers (NHL) and New England Whalers (WHA).
Note: This list does not include selections of the Hartford Whalers.
Prince of Wales Trophy
Conn Smythe Trophy
Frank J. Selke Trophy
King Clancy Memorial Trophy
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
Lester Patrick Trophy
Calder Memorial Trophy
These are the top-ten point-scorers in franchise (Hartford and Carolina) history. Figures are updated after each completed NHL regular season.
Note: Pos = Position; GP = Games Played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; P/G = Points per game
(Note: these records include those from the Hartford Whalers)