Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's The Playoffs, Stupid - Things That Happened

In order to understand what you're about to see, a little background is necessary first.

In 2001 a small band of Hurricanes fans (we weren't called "Caniacs" yet then, but this was part of the legend behind that nickname) managed to suss out where and when the team charter would land after Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against New Jersey. And they came out to RDU International to meet the team when they touched down. At the time, this was probably considered a blip on the radar and probably not very well attended because nobody knew about it.

But it didn't stop there. During the miraculous -- or at least improbable -- run to the 2002 Eastern Conference Championship and the team's first ever appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, the "improvised airport rallies" became entrenched in the culture of the Caniac Nation. By the time the team brought home the Prince of Wales Trophy representing the conference title, the crowds numbered in the hundreds -- or even thousands. The team and the airport played the time and location of the team's arrival pretty close to the vest initially. Then I guess somebody figured out that it made a good media event, and the affairs became semi-legitimized.

By 2006, fans were tracking the plane by its tail number on Blackberries and wireless equipped laptops and keeping the rest of us informed of progress. The events got bigger, and the press was taking them over. The airport authority cordoned off areas for use by the media -- which they didn't use because they could pretty much go where the rest of us couldn't anyway. But being the professionals that they are, the fans got through it. (I featured a bit about the last of these rallies of 2006 in this post. That crowd was big enough that getting them all in one photo required a helicopter shot, so you can guess the scale.)

So after another extended hiatus from the postseason, the Canes are back and so are the rallies, right?

Not so fast. They threw us a curve this year. They moved and didn't tell us. They don't fly into the same place anymore. Not that the old spot was anything to write home about -- just a nondescript unmarked hangar on the ramp in General Aviation. So after Game 2 of the East Quarterfinal, the cluster of fans that arrived expecting the usual gathering in the usual place were greeted by nothing but darkness. No lights, no cars, no sign of life at all. The hangar we'd grown to love looked completely deserted. And there had been no mention of this on the team website or in the paper or on the TV...

It was a sucker punch. But clearly these people fail to comprehend the level of commitment of a Caniac. You won't be able to hide from the True Believers indefinitely. And they didn't. After wandering around in the dark for an hour or so, the gathering took to the road and some of our more devoted (and yes, female) fans noticed that the players' cars were parked at Landmark Aviation. (No, I don't know how they came to know what the players drive, I thought it best not to ask.) Eventually the gathering found its way to the Landmark hangar, and started to set up camp.

Not as great an idea as it sounds like... Apparently somebody at Landmark noticed the crowd and informed the FAA who summoned the gendarmes to go and disperse the mob. Equally apparent was the apprehension the two (count 'em, two) officers they sent to disperse the crowd felt when they realized they had roughly 100 people on their hands. But after a brief show of force (which included clapping one of the crowd in irons temporarily) they realized we weren't going to get belligerent, we were simply continuing a time-honored -- and peaceful -- tradition. But it seems that nobody in the Canes organization had filled Landmark in that this was as much a part of post-season life in Raleigh as ticket scalping and ibuprofen. (Though you'd think after the last three trips to the playoffs, everybody at RDU would realize this... but I digress.)

Were we deterred? Surely you can guess the answer to that question. One of the more diplomatic among us managed to arrive at a compromise that was agreeable to both the fans and the airport cops we outnumbered 50-to-1. We would go and park at the Observation Deck and then take up station along the roadway where the park and ride lot abutted the road the players would use to exit. So the improvised pep rally became an improvised parade. Which could actually turn out better in a way. If nothing else, the media will have their own area and can leave ours alone. But I notice none of them were there last night. Did they have so little faith in the resourcefulness of the fans that they figured there was no story to be had?

Surely that can't be it. Because if that were true, this post wouldn't exist. And since it does, there must have been a story. And the media would certainly have known that, right? Right?

Well they know now.

For a full-sized slideshow, go here.

Violence UnSilenced
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Lil Bit said...

Wow, you guys are some REAL die-hard fans! Sounds like a fun evening, hugs included. ;)

Cool slideshow, but it moves a lil fast to read all of the text on some of the images. just fyi. =)

Robin said...

Gotta love a good hockey fan.

Of course you guys still don't have tickertape... ;-)

Shadow said...

whatever, whatever, looks like fun though!!!