Wonuary, 2019: How Winning NC Hockey Is Great

Wonuary, 2019: How Winning NC Hockey is Great

By Chris Cole

January 14, 2019

We're almost halfway through the first month of 2019 and there is one common thread among all levels of hockey here in North Carolina: they're winning!  While there is already an article by James Jackson titled Making Hockey in NC Great Again talking about the (at the time) winning streaks of the Carolina Hurricanes, Charlotte Checkers, Carolina Thunderbirds, Fayetteville Marksmen, and NC State Wolfpack, I will be focusing on what that means for the state of hockey here in NC overall.

Before we get into the meat of the article, let's look at who are the hot teams currently in North Carolina (as of January 14th, 2019):

  • NC State Wolfpack (ACCHL): NC State are currently undefeated in both division and overall play right now.  They are 15-0-0 and are currently ranked seventh in the Southeast region of the ACHA Division II championship.  They are a powerful scoring machine with an average of slightly seven goals per game! Their defense is solid as well, having only a handful of games in which more than three goals have been scored on them, the rest being 1-goal games or shutouts.
  • Carolina Thunderbirds (FHL): The T-Birds are another team that are on a 15-game winning streak right now. It seems no matter which players and goalies they lose or pick up, they keep their dominance from the opening face-off to the closing buzzer.  Based on their stats, they are a whopping 30 points ahead of second place and they have a goal differential of +60! My favorite moment so far from them was a recent game against the Elmira Enforces in which the owners of the Enforcers a guaranteed a win or else everyone in attendance would receive two-free tickers to another game. Elmira lost. Two tickets for everyone!
  • Fayetteville Marksmen (SPHL): Fayetteville is on a dream stretch right now!  Last year they had an abysmal season; finishing last in the league and not really clicking in any areas of the ice.  Starting on December 26th during their highly successful "Operation: Sellout" promotion, they have won their last seven games! Interesting to point out is that this streak includes three wins against Roanoke, two against Pensacola, and one each against Knoxville and Macon.
  • Carolina Hurricanes (NHL): The Canes have been on fire since their 3-1 New Year's Eve win against the Flyers.  That was the beginning of a five-game winning streak before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but that loss did not stop their momentum.  After the defeat to the Lightning, they had victories over the Buffalo Sabres (4-3) and Nashville Predators (6-3) for a remarkable tally of seven wins in eight games. Every Cane fan hopes that this is the push towards a guaranteed and long missed playoff appearance for the team.

The Charlotte Checkers also have won four of their last five and are first overall in the American Hockey League with a second overall 10 points behind them.  Also, University of North Carolina Hockey have won two games in a row, but will be encountering NC State soon. UNC will be poised to try and dethrone them from their perfect record.

What does this all mean?

Performing well translates to good business for hockey here in the state.  Unlike places up North, like Toronto and Montreal, where losing seasons won't cause a significant drop in numbers, teams in the South need to show they are competitive in order to keep butts in seats.   The Canes have pulled in 16,000 plus average right now because they are performing like playoff contenders and not Draft Lottery champions. The Thunderbirds either sellout or come close to selling out every home game and the Marksmen are seeing an increase in numbers because of their performances as well as smart marketing.  The Marksmen have "Operation: 8lackout" coming Saturday Jan. 19th in which all tickets except rink side will be $8. It would not surprise me if the Marksmen meet or beat their highest attendance this season of 5,444, from "Operation: Sellout" back on December 26th.

You also have NC State who gets a few hundred people coming to the Raleigh IcePlex to create a uniquely intimidating atmosphere within it's comfy confines with the majority of people standing right next to the glass. When NC State and UNC play each other at the PNC Arena, they attract thousands to the game. That's really great for college hockey, regardless if it's club hockey to D1 NCAA. There is a market for hockey here at all levels, it just needs to be a consistent and/or promising product on the ice to keep people coming to the games.

You can follow the author on Twitter: @HockeyNC