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The Daily Tar Heel

'Canes Frenzy Sweeps Triangle

Fans, clad in jerseys and waving memorabilia, leapt from their red-cushioned seats in the lower level of the sports arena, and in unison let out a loud, long cheer: "Woooo!"

Francis' shot, executed less than a minute into overtime, elevated the Hurricanes 1-0 in the series against the Detroit Red Wings at the Joe Louis Arena in Michigan.

Fans around the Triangle, who have been snatching up 'Canes' paraphernalia, have been waiting for this moment since the team clinched the Eastern Conference a week ago.

A crowd of more than 8,000 gathered at the ESA to watch their beloved Hurricanes drag the Red Wings into overtime on Detroit's home ice.

Bradford Moore of Cary showed up Tuesday night at the ESA ready to root for his Hurricanes. Officials opened the arena to the hockey fans free of charge.

"I've been following hockey since I was 5 or 6, when my parents talked me into it," Moore said. "To see this many fans turn out for a televised game is unbelievable. This is the greatest time ever."

The doors to the ESA opened for guests at 7 p.m., but fans showed up well ahead of time to tailgate and socialize.

"We're real excited," said Annette DiBona, who attended the game with her husband, Anthony, and her sons, Nicholas and Joey.

The DiBonas are season ticket holders, so watching the game at the ESA, although this time on the video scoreboard instead of on the ice, is a tradition. This time, however, the family was able to tailgate before the event.

But the event had other perks for the younger DiBonas. "I like watching it on the big TV, and we can go down to the low seats," said Nicholas, 9.

Six-year-old Joey chimed in.

"I like getting popcorn," he said.

In addition to opening the arena for hockey fans, officials also operated the concessions stands.

"It's still an event, which means we have to do the same preparations," said Larry Perkins, assistant general manager. "We are treating this event as if it was a Hurricanes home game. The only thing missing is the team."

And everything operated as close to normal as possible. The concession stands still lured fans, as did The Eye, the 'Canes' in-house memorabilia store.

Natalie and Amanda Caccione sported jerseys as they trekked to the ESA.

Seven-year-old Natalie said she was excited because she would most likely get to see her favorite player, Jeff O'Neill. "He's a good hockey player, and he's cute," she said.

Matt Fletcher, a graduate of Apex High School, made it to the match in time to see the Hurricanes start overtime. "No one really thought they would be in the playoffs, and now they're playing in the championship," Fletcher said.

The team was originally based in Hartford, Conn., as the Hartford Whalers. The team was bought in 1994 and moved to North Carolina in 1997 under the Hurricanes name. After a brief stint in Greensboro, the owner moved the team to Raleigh.

The ESA will open its doors at 7p.m. tonight to televise the 'Canes as they continue their quest for the Cup in Detroit.

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The Sports Editor can be reached at

sports@unc.edu.