The Carolina Hurricanes are currently last in National Hockey League home attendance after six games, averaging 11,411 fans a night, but they're in no danger of needing a new home.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman quashed any rumours that the team might be relocating from Raleigh, North Carolina following the sale of a majority share in the team by Peter Karmanos.
“I don’t think anyone needs to worry about the future of the franchise in Carolina,” Bettman told Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer. “Peter is exploring his options, but there is no rush, no pressure, no timetable. I am certain if he sells the franchise, he will continue the legacy of having the franchise in what has been a strong market and keep it where it is."
The Hurricanes have been in Carolina since Karmanos moved the Hartford Whalers to Raleigh in 1997. After reaching the final in 2002 and ultimately falling to the Detroit Red Wings, the franchise captured its first Stanley Cup in 2006.
After finishing 29th in attendance last season with an average of 12,594 fans a night, there was optimism in Raleigh when the team drew a record crowd of 18,949 at PNC Arena for the season opener with the Detroit Red Wings on October 10. Only three weeks later, the team drew just 9,081 for an encounter with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Still, that isn't cause for concern for Bettman.
“People should not be concerned about something fueled by media in other locations. Everything Peter is doing is being done to ensure the long-term future of hockey in the Triangle [the area encompassing the college towns that incorporate Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State]. That’s where the league believes it should be and where it will be.”
Karmanos, 72, announced in August that he intended to sell the club. While no sale is imminent, Karmanos, for his part, doesn't see any reason why the team should leave the Raleigh area.
“I’m befuddled by the rumors the team will move,” Karmanos. “It’s a great market. The fans are still supportive. When you give them a Grade A product, they will respond.”
Since Bettman assumed the commissioner's office in 1993, five franchises have relocated. Aside from the Hurricanes, the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993, the Quebec Nordiques relocated to Denver in 1995, the original Winnipeg Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996 and the current Jets moved from Atlanta in 2011.
With groups in Quebec City and Las Vegas currently in the midst of the expansion process, there exists the possibility that one of the groups could explore the relocation of any existing franchise should it be shut out. The league is looking at the 2017-18 season as the earliest date for an expansion franchise to join the league.
The Hurricanes return to action at the PNC Arena on Thursday night when they host the Minnesota Wild.