After a week of the NHL Network showing the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals, they've got another bit of programming that features the Hurricanes. You've gotta set your DVRs, coz this isn't prime time.
As part of their ongoing "Classic Series" series, they're showing the 1999 Eastern Conference quarterfinals between the Bruins and the Hurricanes. It'll air Wednesday morning at 9:00 and again on Thursday at 3:00 am.
It was Carolina's second season in North Carolina, and they were still in their temporary "home" in Greensboro. Carolina was the Southeast division champs and the #3 seed in the east. Their mediocre 86 standings points would not have gotten them a wildcard berth, but thanks to a very weak division, they were in. Boston was the "road" team, but was favored to win. Carolina gave them more of a challenge than they expected.
Boston won the series 4-2, and the pivotal game was game five, in Greensboro. April 30, 1999. The series was tied 2-2, and after regulation, the game was tied 3-3. The crowd stood for the entire first overtime, which solved nothing. Again, the crowd stood for the entire second overtime. Anson Carter scored at 14:45 of the second overtime to win the game and, effectively, the series. Game six, up in Boston was a shutout, officially ending the Hurricanes playoff season on May 2.
While most teams would shrug it off as "just another playoff loss", this one was very hard to take for Canes fans. The team immediately returned home, and had a party at Gary Roberts' house in Raleigh. Defenseman Steve Chiasson had way too much to drink and made a very bad decision to attempt to drive himself home. Things didn't work out. Chiasson was in a single car accident in which he was killed instantly.
Bring up "1999 playoffs" to a longtime Hurricanes fan, and you'll probably get a very somber look.
I was at that epic game five. I walked up to the ticket booth and bought a lower level center ice ticket about an hour before puck drop. Officially, the attendance was just a hair over 11,000. Carolina's attendance woes during the "Greensboro years" are well documented, and this was one of the best ones. For the record, the Greensboro Coliseum is equipped to hold 20,000 for hockey, but seldomly had more than 5,000 for a Canes game. That's another story for another day.
Back to the epic game five. Steve Chiasson scored the game's first goal. Nobody had any way of knowing it, but it would be his last.
I've turned my pigsty of an apartment upside down looking for the ticket stub to that game. I'm a bit of a packrat, and I did dig up some other tickets to other hockey games before my season ticket days. Also, I found some NFL football tickets and some movie tickets and some airplane boarding passes and some ten year old gas station receipts and various and sundry garbage. I remembered why I kept most of them, but there were some real head-scratchers in there. Anyway, I had no luck finding the stub to that game. For that matter, I couldn't find any remnants of "the Greensboro years".
One very cool sidenote about the Chiasson saga is that he and Cory Stillman were teammates in Calgary from 1994 to 1997. They also both grew up in Peterborough, Ontario. The town of Peterborough erected a small statue of Chiasson in one of its parks. As a beautiful gesture, Stillman used his day with the Stanley Cup in 2006 to visit that statue of his friend and teammate.
It'll be interesting to watch that "Classic series", but very hard at the same time. It was very exciting, as new hockey fans in North Carolina were introduced to playoff hockey, but it culminated in tragedy. That series, and more specifically, the Chiasson tragedy, was one of the most defining moments for this franchise. Every team goes through the loss of a playoff series, and must learn to do so gracefully. That's the easy part. Dealing with the death of a player is the impossible part.
5 years ago