Bates Battaglia. The player that started it all. I go back to the 2001-02 NHL season when the BBC line was thriving and Number 13 with the flowing hair seemed like a god on skates to my eight year-old self. I clearly remember begging my dad to buy the nosebleed seats in the then ESA just to watch the ‘Canes streak down the ice to score a goal, making thousands of fans jump to their feet in an instant. I truly fell in love with the game of hockey when my store-bought replica Carolina Hurricanes puck was signed by Ron Francis. Since then, I have been not just a Caniac, but a fan of the game. Over the years, I have seen amazing players get drafted into the organization, players I love get traded away, basement-dwelling teams, a fourteen game losing streak, a goal scored in the last 0.2 seconds of a game, and, of course, Lord Stanley being lifted above Rod Brind’Amour’s head.
While friends at school would rather wear a cute dress to the prom, I’d opt for my signed Joe Corvo jersey. While others my age would go shopping at the mall in their free-time, I’d rather be at the RecZone watching Tom Barrasso do goalie drills and Ron Francis work on the power play. While other girls would be counting the money their parents gave them to go shopping at Hollister, I’d be counting the money Jim Rutherford is spending and how much room we have left in the salary cap to go snag a free-agent winger for Eric Staal to play with. I’ve come to the conclusion long ago that I am addicted to hockey, but I’m just fine with that. Many times have I started a conversation about what is going on in the NHL with someone who is your typical fan… aka a guy. All too often do I receive a look of astonishment at my knowledge of not only the game, but the business side of things, too. I guess being a teenage year old girl raised on college basketball doesn’t give me much credibility at first glance.
Being a girl hockey fan has both its pros and cons. Despite popular belief, my favorite hockey player is not Jeff Skinner because OMGHELOOKSLIKEBIEBER. I often get mistaken, even if it’s only in people’s minds, as being in it just for the cute hockey players (I will admit, looks are a bonus, but if I’m not allowed to look at the players, then the Checkmates and Storm Squad should not exist!). Above all, an epic save from a goalie or a good, solid shutdown game from a defenseman is immensely more enjoyable to me than staring at a good looking athlete.
When finding out last February that the Charlotte Checkers were to become an AHL franchise and the affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes, I was extremely excited. Not only would it connect two fanbases within the state, but it would give us NHL fans the opportunity to see these prospects in person that we had only heard about through press releases and the occasional “In the System” blogs on the Hurricanes’ website. When 2010 Training Camp rolled around, I took in the faces that I had once glanced over, knowing that I would see almost every face at least once over the upcoming
season, whether it be in Raleigh or Charlotte. No longer would I be distraught about the big club sending someone down to Albany, where I knew I’d never be able to see them live in a game. I was comforted in knowing that they were simply two hours and fifteen minutes down the road to see when I had the time to make it down to North Carolina’s biggest city.
What I love most about the Charlotte Checkers is the fact that they aren’t just a roster of names of prospects in the Carolina organization, but they are a hockey team that I can follow closely, just like their parent club. Much like I had imagined back when I heard the news that Mr. Kahn had bought the team, I have fallen in love with the city, the players, and most of all the way the team has bonded and played together so well this season. Whether it is Zach Boychuk going top-shelf on Holtby of the Bears, or Bryan Rodney shutting down Chris Collins of the Baby Penguins, or Mike Murphy standing on his head to earn the Checkers’ first shutout in history, I love this team. Maybe I’m a teenage girl raised in the South, but I still appreciate what the Checkers are doing for the game of hockey in the wonderful state of North Carolina.