Published: Jul 12, 2006 12:44 PM
Modified: Jul 06, 2006 12:25 PM
Hello, my name is Stuart and I am a Caniac.
There, I admit my addiction.
Now, for all of those skeptics in Buffalo, Edmonton and throughout the national media who believe there are so few of us, add one more to your total. And there are more coming, rest assured.
Early in the Stanley Cup Eastern Conference finals, a Durham-based contributing writer for ESPN.com, Bomani Jones, went searching for Caniacs.
The premise of Jones' column was that fans of the Carolina Hurricanes, who have reached the Stanley Cup finals twice in the last four years in which there was a season, are hard to find. Given that the team could not sell out its pulsating Eastern Conference finals series against Buffalo, Jones has to be given an ounce of credit.
But Jones went looking in all the wrong places. He went to a couple of Raleigh bars. Had he pulled off I-40 and swung by the RBC Center for any of their home games, he would have found parking lots full of tailgaters that rivaled any found in the Triangle on a fall Saturday afternoon.
Better yet, had he stepped into a school classroom, he would have seen the little Caniacs being hatched. Take my daughter Allison's first-grade class at Weatherstone Elementary, for example.
Tuesday mornings I had the privilege of working with each student on vocabulary words. I'm sure I enjoyed it more than they did, but as winter rolled into spring and then into Stanley Cup playoffs, I began to notice a transformation.
With each passing week that the Hurricanes kept winning in the playoffs, the students, especially the boys, displayed their enthusiasm for the team with a bit more octane. One boy who appears to have more hockey sweaters than teams in the NHL began wearing his Canes sweater on a more regular basis.
Asked if they watched particular games, the response was generally, "Yeah, and we're going to win the Stanley Cup. Even my daughter, after receiving a Playoffs 101 session from her dad, knew where the various series stood and was curious as to if the Stanley Cup was named after the popular storybook character Flat Stanley.
During a recent Author's Tea, in which each student read stories to classmates and parents that he or she had written and illustrated, there were the usual storylines about princesses, sea monsters and favorite animals. But there were also stories about hockey pucks and goalies, in particular one goalie who went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Had the Hurricanes been a middle-of-the-road team that either failed to make the playoffs or got bounced in the opening round, such imagination may not have been fostered. Instead, Carolina is on the verge of winning a championship.
In classrooms, in rinks and in driveways, kids are pretending to be players with names such as Staal, Brind'Amour, Ward and Stillman, each making a play that wins a Stanley Cup. They may not remember the particulars of this championship run, but they will remember this time as being different, special and exciting.
And in years to come, when those little boys and girls are men and women, they likely will look back and remember this is when they became true Caniacs. And they will not be hard to find.
Contact Stuart Hall at 460-2606 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published, broadcast or redistributed in any manner.