Don Cherry, The Storm Surge And The Carolina Hurricanes Culture Shift

To absolutely no one’s surprise, the infamously old fashioned Don Cherry has a problem with the Carolina Hurricanes Storm Surge celebrations.

For those who haven’t been on social media since the start of the season, the Carolina Hurricanes have implemented their new “storm surge” celebration at the end of every home win. It starts with a unified Viking skol clap which then leads to a new scene acted out by the Hurricanes players. Storm Surges have featured everything from duck duck goose to human bowling to team (and mascot) limbo.

These new celebrations are the direct result of the culture shift in Carolina. Before the start of the season, Tom Dundon purchased the Hurricanes and a new head coach, general manager and captain were appointed to lead the team. Those decisions came on the heels of the Hurricanes ninth straight season of missing the playoffs as well as an increasing number of empty seats inside PNC Arena.

This may come as a surprise to some, but Raleigh, North Carolina isn’t exactly the biggest hockey market in the NHL. A lack of winning in seasons past hasn’t helped the Hurricanes case either and something to get fans involved and excited about hockey again was badly needed. Enter the Storm Surge.

What originally started as the team jumping into the boards together has turned into one of the biggest spectacles in the NHL. While most people love it as a show of emotion and a celebration with the city they play in, not everyone is as enthusiastic as Hurricanes fans appear to be.

And by not everyone, I mean almost exclusively Don Cherry as no one else seems to have a vocal opposition to it.

Cherry is a former hockey player, coach and longtime Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster who is known for his flamboyant suits and passionate, if not, always politically correct opinions about the game of hockey. The good ol’ Canadian boy loves the good ol’ Canadian style of hockey where players are tough above all else and don’t gloat or celebrate for more than a few seconds.

Naturally, Cherry has a problem with the Hurricanes Storm Surge celebration and let the whole world know during a recent Coach’s Corner segment on Hockey Night in Canada.

A whole bunch of jerks with their joke of a celebration that doesn’t have any place in professional hockey. Tell us how you really feel, Don.

Turns out, the Carolina Hurricanes couldn’t have asked for a better marketing piece than Cherry’s comments and were quick to respond.

A mere days later, Cherry’s “bunch of jerks” comment was turned into a T-shirt and the Hurricanes have adopted the name as their own, changing their Twitter bio to reflect their new nickname.

Be it the love of the Storm Surge or the shared disdain the internet has for Don Cherry, the Carolina Hurricanes have gone viral since Cherry’s Coach’s Corner rant. This has caused exactly the popularity spike the Hurricanes wanted and probably a little more than they hoped for. A recent graphic posted to the team’s social media revealed that over 5,000 shirts have been sold since they’ve been available online to almost all 50 states and 11 different countries.

The Storm Surge and the support its received from fans across the league is like nothing the NHL has seen before. It’s given an infamously low profile franchise in a small market the face they’ve been looking for on a national scale. Now that people are interested in the Hurricanes, they’ve come to realize that they aren’t too bad at hockey either.

Currently, the Hurricanes are fourth in the Metropolitan division and hold the second wild-card spot in the eastern conference as well. Just as important as being relevant in the standings though, fans are coming to games and staying the duration to see what the Hurricanes will do once it’s over.

In an interview with TSN Toronto 1050, Carolina Hurricanes Captain Justin Williams spoke on this, saying that as a player, it’s a good feeling to look into the stands and see people there at the end of the game when usually fans are heading to the doors. This is most certainly not how it’s always been after Hurricanes games in Raleigh.

The fans aren’t the only ones enjoying the celebrations either. Williams said that everyone in the locker room was on board and no one was being forced to participate. It’s become something the players enjoy doing and a rare way for the players to interact with their fans during a game. Nothing forced, nothing artificial, just the players having fun with their fans. Makes sense why this Cherry guy hates it.

In recent history, it seems that Carolina has been a place for players to underperform and only when they’re traded do they pick up their game again. Some examples from the past few years would be Jeff Skinner in Buffalo, Elias Lindholm in Calgary and Eric Staal in Minnesota.

When a team trades quality players who are struggling to produce only to see them flourish with their new teams, it’s only natural to wonder why they couldn’t do that in Carolina. While I can’t personally speak on the atmosphere in the locker room or how much support players have been feeling from their hometown, what they’re doing now is working.

The Hurricanes are 19-10-1 in their last 30 games and both the players and fans appear to be enjoying themselves. At the trade deadline, they’re in a playoff spot and will be fighting to bring the postseason back to Raleigh for the first time in nine years right to the end of the season. All things considered, that’s a pretty good spot for the Hurricanes to be in.

While the Storm Surge may be a one-off and may be forgotten by next season, it certainly has proven to be what this team needed most right now. The same can be said for Don Cherry’s rant that propelled the Hurricanes into the public eye. They’ve quickly and happily adopted their new role as misfits and jerks and for the first time in a while, are on the right side of the playoff bubble heading into the final stretch of the season.

By the way, you can buy the Bunch of Jerks T-Shirt here, but demand has been so high they’ll take a while to ship out. What a pleasant surprise to come out of Raleigh, North Carolina.

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