RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes are headed out in the elements.
The team will host an outdoor game next season at Carter-Finley Stadium, home of NC State’s football team and adjacent to the team’s PNC Arena, on Feb. 20, 2021, the NHL announced Saturday.
“We’re proud to be the first NHL market in the Southeast to host an outdoor game,” said Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon, who has pressed the league for an outdoor game since taking ownership of the NHL franchise in early 2018.
The game was officially announced Saturday during the Colorado Avalanche’s Stadium Series game against the Dallas Stars. The Hurricanes’ opponent for the game has not yet been determined, though the Washington Capitals — a Metropolitan Division rival — have already said they are not in consideration. Commissioner Gary Bettman said the game will be held at night.
“We are thrilled to be bringing an outdoor game to Carolina and, in particular, Raleigh,” he said on a conference call prior to the Avalanche-Kings Stadium Series game. “It’s a testament to the great fan base that we’ve always known has been in the Triangle. It’s great to see the community reengage in the way they have over the last season.
“Attendance this year is up over 25%, and there’s no doubt that the fan base is passionate, connected, excited. And I think it’s a testament to the way the team’s playing and to the efforts that Tom Dundon and the organization have put in to hockey in the Triangle.”
Bettman said Dundon dogged in his pursuit of landing an outdoor game for the Triangle.
“He has been relentless,” Bettman said, “but more importantly, his main focus was, ‘I want to do this for the community. I want to do this for the fans. We’ve got a really good thing going, and I would like to be able to bring this to the Triangle and to our terrific fans.’”
While the average high temperature in Raleigh on Feb. 20 is 54 degrees — with a record of 75 — the league has no concerns with the weather as long as the rain holds off.
“So give me a dry day and we’ll be in good shape,” Bettman said, mentioning that the league has previously held outdoor games in both Dallas and Los Angeles.
Bettman also praised NC State and its athletic director, Boo Corrigan, for working with team and league on making Carter-Finley Stadium the venue.
“I would be remiss if we didn’t thank NC State for the incredible cooperation that the Hurricanes are now getting from the athletic department at NC State,” he said. “And without that cooperation, this would not have been a possibility.”
The Hurricanes hosted the NHL several times to pitch having the game at Carter-Finley Stadium, including setting up cones in the shape of a rink to illustrate how it would fit on the field of 57,583-seat football stadium.
With the game confirmed and the date set, the team and league have just about a year to make an outdoor game in Raleigh a reality.
“It’s just the event,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “It’s being around it, something that you’re not going to see very often. … Our fans deserve something like this. They’ve been supporting us so well here, especially the last year and a half. It puts us on the map a little bit as an organization and, again, it’s really about the fans. I hope they come out and enjoy it.”
While Brind’Amour hasn’t experienced an outdoor game as an NHL coach or player, team captain Jordan Staal played in the 2011 Winter Classic as a member of the Penguins. He also famously honed his craft with his three hockey-playing brothers on the Staal family outdoor rink as a kid.
“The whole experience is really cool,” Staal said. “For me, growing up in the cold, it’s what you did growing up — playing outdoors. It brings you back, it brings good memories of your childhood and what hockey’s all about. And that’s playing the game that you love.”
Staal will also get to do something he didn’t in the build-up to the 2011 game at Heinz Field — have a wife and kids with which to share the entire event.
“It’s going to be a really cool experience for everyone here in Raleigh, and I’m very excited for the game,” he said.