This Day In Sports: North Carolina Discovers Ice Hockey

Sutter
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
A game-winning overtime goal means one thing for Brandon Sutter - sweet tea for everyone!

October 3, 1997: What do you get when you mix college basketball, BBQ, tobacco, and NASCAR? Hockey, apparently. On this day, the NHLers formerly known as the Hartford Whalers took the ice for the first time in Greensboro, North Carolina as the newly-minted Carolina Hurricanes.

The team's abrupt exit from Connecticut and relocation to temporary housing down the highway from their eventual home in Raleigh left the Hurricanes with a struggling fanbase, to say the least. Really, placing an ice hockey team in a warm and unfamiliar climate and naming it after a natural disaster - what could possibly go wrong?

Fortunately, for that first game, Pittsburgh was in town and the Penguins fans were more than willing to explain to the curious locals that "icing" wasn't just something you buy in a can at Harris Teeter. As history will show, the Penguins were also the first in hockey flight in North Carolina, beating the Hurricanes 4-3 behind two goals from Tyler Wright.

Carolina's first season was a losing one but the Hurricanes would soon improve - quite quickly as it turned out - and win the Southeast Division in their second year. Not too long thereafter, the Hurricanes brought the Stanley Cup to Raleigh at the end of the 2005-06 season. However, Carolina held their "victory parade" by completing laps around the RBC Center parking lot, proving that perhaps they still had a few things to learn after all.