Carolina Hurricanes Stanley Cup playoff tailgating is hot
The air outside the PNC Arena Friday afternoon was like a sweat-soaked jersey, and smoke from 100 Hibachis cast 100-degree shadows on the sidewalk as the first wave of tailgates arrived, carrying coolers full of fireballs.
They plugged in oscillating fans in pickup trucks, hung fans from the ceilings of their party tents, sat in their rocking camp chairs and rubbed cold bottles of Bud on their cheeks.
With the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup playoffs, it didn’t matter that the plastic wheels of their Hibachis had started to warp on the hot tarmac.
It didn’t matter that the only shadow found three hours before the puck fell came from the trunk of a dead tree.
Everything but a paddling pool
There were Tiki bars to build, cornhole boards to measure, miniature Stanley Cup statues to build out of coffee cans. Fans of this enthusiast will bring all the comforts except a children’s pool.
“We were going to bring one,” Emil Branas explained, drink in hand. “But then we thought, ‘How do you get water in there? “”
For a sport played on a sheet of ice, Friday’s pre-game ritual was unusually sensual.
Paul Lawson arrived in a pair of kilts.
“Being Scottish, I have the right,” he said. “It’s quite nice when the little breeze blows there.”
Austin Carroll and his friends played beer pong using cups filled with water – not beer.
“I don’t want the beer to get warm,” he says.
The toughest crowd came at 4 p.m., when the National Weather Service recorded the heat as 94 degrees. They found the few shaded spots, knowing the recruits would be stuck in the unshaded wasteland in the center of the parking lots, where Canes flags hung from hockey sticks, waiting for something to wave them.
“We’ve been doing this for a while”
They knew how to make slush not only with bourbon, but also with green tea or a basket of fruit. Any food that had once been a mammal ended up charring and smoking on a paper plate.
“We’ve been doing this for a while,” boasted Patrick Drollinger, a 22-year-old hooker who grew a prospector’s beard for the 2006 Canes Championship.
Heat? “That’s what condemnation is for,” he said, pointing to a half-empty bottle of brown liquid.
The fervor of the canes swelled so deeply into these tailgates that they hardly noticed they were choking.
And like any loyal fan, they treasured any good omen – on or off the ice.
” It’s windy ! Drollinger announced. “See? That’s it now.