Finally here: Raleigh prepares for NHL Stadium Series

Several events lead up to Saturday’s outdoor game at Carter-Finley Stadium between the Hurricanes and visiting Capitals

A crew works on preparing the outdoor rink on Monday for the Stadium Series game at NC State’s Carter-Finley Stadium between the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals scheduled for Saturday night. (Cory Lavalette / North State Journal)

RALEIGH — The main event will be Saturday night, but the Carolina Hurricanes and NHL have served up a week’s worth of activities ahead of the Feb. 18 Stadium Series game against the Washington Capitals at NC State’s Carter-Finley Stadium.

Any questions about whether or not the Triangle would have issues hosting such a big event were quickly stamped out by how quickly tickets — an estimated 57,000 will be attendance — were sold.

“I have to admit, we’re surprised by how quickly this fan base gobbled up tickets,” Steve Mayer, NHL chief content officer and event producer, said Monday. “Absolutely incredible. It shows how this market has grown, how much they love hockey. I think it’s one of the fastest-selling games we’ve ever had. And so that says a lot about Raleigh, a lot about Carolina and the interest in the game. We expect quite a crowd here.”

The rink, which is centered on the Wolfpack’s football field, is expected to be ready by Wednesday, and the lead-up to the game includes events in downtown Raleigh, the area surrounding Carter-Finley Stadium and PNC Arena, and inside the stadium.

Both teams are scheduled to skate at the rink on midday Friday, though weather could complicate things: The forecast calls for rain, which would likely lead to the teams moving their practices indoors.

“We’re gonna try to get them on the ice,” Mayer said. “But if the rain is significant, we’ll probably move them into an indoor facility. That’s what we typically do. We don’t want to … but we also want to preserve the ice for Saturday’s game.”

Earlier Friday, the Veterans Showcase Hockey Tournament will take place at Raleigh Polar Ice (2601 Raleigh Blvd.) from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. between four teams, including one from Fort Bragg.

“Through the Veterans Showcase, we’re able to create a platform for veteran hockey teams to share their stories and celebrate their talent,” said Capt. Keith Hoskins (USN Retired), executive vice president of branch operations for event sponsor Navy Federal Credit Union. “Moments like this are how we honor the hard work, commitment and camaraderie of our members, the NHL and its fans, and we’re very proud of that.”

A fan fest will take place downtown on Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. with two live music stages, street hockey, beer stations and more than 30 food trucks, and several local team mascots and activities for children. Fans will have the opportunity to take photos with Hurricanes alumni and the Stanley Cup, and the night will end with a fireworks and drone light show at 9 p.m.

While weather looks iffy for Friday, Saturday is expected to have a high of 52 degrees and low of 35 degrees with no rain.

“We see nothing in the forecast coming up that presents a problem at all,” Mayer said. “There could be a little rain for practice day, so we’re keeping our eye on that. But game day temperatures look great — actually perfect.”

Parking for the game on Saturday — which should be purchased ahead of time at — will open at 2 p.m., and the NHL will have its PreGame festivities running from that time until 7:30 p.m.

That will include a chance for fans to face off in bubble hockey or attempt trick shot and stick handling challenges. There will also be an NHL esports event, the EA Sports NHL 23 Stadium Series Open, from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., along with other booths and attractions. The Stanley Cup will again be available for fan photos.

The league announced Tuesday that alternative rock group lovelytheband will perform at 4 p.m. at the PNC Arena East 1000 parking lot.

The gates to Carter-Finley Stadium will open at 6 p.m.

The Hurricanes announced that three alumni of the 2006 Stanley Cup team — Erik Cole, Mike Commodore and Chad Larose — will serve as siren sounders before each period, and during the first intermission of the game, country musician Jake Owen will perform.

The NHL, which is renting Carter-Finley Stadium from NC State for the event, will also try and incorporate aspects of the football game day experience beyond the tailgating that fans have already integrated into the Hurricanes’ culture.

“The other thing for us which is really important is to celebrate not only the Hurricanes and hockey in this region but to celebrate NC State,” Mayer said. “I think you’ll see in things that we’re going to incorporate from a creative standpoint, we’re really going all in on NC State as well.

“Whether it’s alumni, whether it’s the marching band and other elements that you might see during a football game, that’s part of why it’s so special wherever we go (for outdoor games) to really celebrate where we’re at and show it off. Not only to those who are in the stadium but those who are watching … around the world.

“This is a global game. That is televised around the world and our signature game, these outdoor games. So we’ll be proud to show off NC State as well as Carolina Hurricanes hockey.”