Photo of the Carolina Hurricanes' bench at PNC Arena.

Image Credit: Doug Kerr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

When the Hartford Whalers relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina a little over two decades ago, NHL fans weren't completely confident that the National Hockey League could survive in a southern market like North Carolina. Turns out, they may have been right. Despite winning the Stanley Cup Championship in 2006, the Carolina Hurricanes have only made the playoffs on one occasion since then. The Hurricanes have also struggled with attendance and failed to create a rabid fan base like other southern market teams like the Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. has searched for a potential buyer of the team for more than three years now. Clearly he's either not getting the asking price he wants or other potential buyers don't think the team can cut it in Raleigh. Quebec City, Seattle and Kansas City are three cities chomping at the bit for an NHL franchise. Quebec City's bid for an NHL team was deferred by the NHL in 2016, as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman explains in the video below. Quebec City has a brand new arena, the Centre Videotron, that is just waiting on a franchise. 

NHL Commission Garry Bettman has also publicly stated that he is committed to keeping the Hurricanes in Raleigh. However, that does not prevent a new owner from moving the team to another city. Hurricanes President Don Waddell attributes the relocation rumors to the Montreal media after a home game vs. the Montreal Canadiens in 2016. Waddell also suggested that the NHL's revenue sharing model kept small market teams like the Carolina Hurricanes out of the red.

The Hurricanes are averaging just over 11,000 fans per home game for the 2016-2017 season, the lowest in the National Hockey League. Only time will tell how long the Hurricanes remain in Raleigh. As much as the NHL would like to deny the relocation rumors, professional sports franchises often cannot endure losing seasons and poor attendance for long periods of time. I, for one, have always said that the Hurricanes would have been much better off relocating to Charlotte, North Carolina when they left Hartford, Connecticut in the 1990's. 




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