The Carolina Hurricanes, who have not been good in a very long time, are actually pretty cool to watch this year, even if they haven’t quite crossed back into the realm of “good” yet. Of the teams currently outside the playoff picture (the Canes are 10th in the East right now), Carolina is undeniably one of the most fun for neutral fans. For one, they’re an analytics marvel, best in the league at both shots for and shots against. Also, they have one of the best young forward duos in the game thanks to points leader Sebastian Aho and second-best assist man Teuvo Teravainen, as well as an agelessly consistent and lovable veteran leader in Justin Williams. If only their netminders could make a save, they’d be a real force to be reckoned with.
But the Hurricanes aren’t fun only because of their goal-scorers. In their first full season under new owner Thomas Dundon, and their first with rookie head coach and Hurricanes legend Rod Brind’Amour, the Canes have really leaned into the “cute and scrappy small market team” vibes, embracing the ghost of the Hartford Whalers while also pioneering more and more elaborate and rehearsed post-game celebrations whenever they win at home. It always starts with the Iceland Viking Clap and eventually climaxes with some sort of flourish, like a charge towards the loudest side of the rink, or human dominoes, or—on Friday after the Hurricanes beat the Golden Knights 5-2—a friendly round of Duck Duck Goose at center ice.
In a sport where just using the first-person is often seen as too flamboyant, it’s obviously a polarizing gimmick. Personally, I love when non-traditional hockey towns adopt some kind of weird ritual to personalize the game—from rats on the ice in Florida to catfish in Nashville to the Medieval Times pregame show in Vegas—but it’d maybe be kind of embarrassing if, like, the Leafs or the Blackhawks tried to copy it. One thing that’s for sure is, there’s a specific type of serious hockey-watcher who gets irked by these displays. The normally sane Justin Bourne at The Athletic was one of them, formulating a take that basically amounts to, “Players need to get off the ice immediately after a win and not have fun if they want to be their best.”
The easiest way to poke holes in Bourne’s thought process is to note that captain Justin Williams, three-time Cup winner and “Mr. Game 7,” took the lead on the whole celebration idea. And Brind’Amour, himself a champion, says “We want to have fun when you win. The game should be fun.”
But love it or hate it, the slow clap is on everyone’s mind, and on Sunday, after the Flames won on the road against the Hurricanes, former Cane Elias Lindholm did his own mocking clap in front of his old fans, much to their annoyance.
Even if the loss wasn’t ideal, this is a fantastic new development for the Hurricanes and their fans. As recently as last year, if you wanted to make fun of this franchise, it’d be hard to muster up anything better than, like, “If nobody goes to see a shitty hockey team play, do they even really exist?” Now, Carolina has an identity, something that sticks in opposing teams’ heads and establishes them as a real group of players and not an empty void on every other team’s schedule. People are actually offended when they win, and what could be better than that? A healthy NHL-level goalie, perhaps, but otherwise, they’re doing fine.