Sunday, October 3, 2010

Carolina Hockey

This will be my second straight post discussing the Carolinas, but this post will be about sports, specifically ice hockey, and not beer. This year, two minor league hockey franchises have relocated to the Carolinas. Back in February, I posted about Charlotte getting a new AHL franchise. There is also a new ECHL franchise in Greenville, South Carolina.

Charlotte's new franchise kept the name of the city's previous ECHL team, the Checkers. The new team is the AHL affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes. Back in June, the Checkers unvieled new logos and jersey designs. The team's new primary logo is a duplicate of the previous logo, but with the colors changed from powered blue and navy blue to black and silver to match the colors of the parent club. To further tie the new team to the Hurricanes, the new alternate logo features the team's polar bear mascot carrying a hockey stick with a tropical storm flag. The new sweaters are just replicas of the three that the Hurricanes wear only with the Checkers logos on the chest.

Taken altogether, I do not particularly care for these changes. While I understand that the overall goal is to promote the parent club throughout the Carolinas, I do not think that making the Checkers clones of the Hurricanes is the best way of achieving that goal. The main problem is that the themes of two teams do not match. Why does a team with a polar bear as its mascot have jerseys with tropical warning flags trimming the bottom? In my opinion, the Checkers should have maintained the colors and jerseys of the previous franchise. The team should only have a single Hurricanes-clone jersey which would only be worn for certain games. That jersey would be red but with the team's alternate logo which I like. The games when those sweaters are worn could be specifically geared towards promoting the Canes. Perhaps, some of the Hurricanes players and Stormy, the Hurricanes' mascot, could make the trip down for those games.

The previous incarnation of the Checkers was affiliated with the New York Rangers. Replacing the Checkers as the ECHL affiliate of the Rangers is the Greenville Road Warriors. The Road Warriors were previously the Johnstown Chiefs before moving to South Carolina. The team will play in the BI-LO Center which is located in downtown Greenville. The name for the team was chosen via a fan-submission contest and is a homage to the area's link to the automotive industry. I like the team's colors and logo. However, I would drop "Road" from the team name and just go with the "Warriors" for the name.

Speaking of road warriors, that term could definitely be applied to the major league team in Raleigh. The Hurricanes are experiencing big changes this year. At the top, longtime captain Rod Brind'Amour has retired, and Eric Staal begins his first full year serving as captain. There are also several new young players. The Canes have gone from the second-oldest team last year with the average age of their players being 29.3 years to the 26th oldest this year with an average age of 27.2. Those players will be a bit older before the team's first true home game this season. The team's first home game will be the second of two games against the Minnesota Wild to be played in Helsinki, Finland. After returning to this country, the next five games for the team are on the road. This is primarily thanks to the North Carolina State Fair which runs from October 14-24. The RBC Center, the team's home, shares parking space with the fairgrounds and also Carter–Finley Stadium, home to the N. C. State's football team. The Wolfpack have an away game and a bye week while the fair is in town. The first game at the RBC Center for the Hurricanes is October 27 versus the Capitals.

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