The Carolina Hurricanes entered the 2018–19 season as a faltering small-market team, without a playoff victory in nearly a decade. With a first-time owner and new, general manager, coach and captain, the franchise rebooted but still fell to the bottom of the conference’s standings in December.
Now, with a 15–5–1 record since the New Year, the Hurricanes have life. The team’s renewed chemistry has the Hurricanes locked in a race for a playoff spot—and their postgame celebrations are impossible to ignore.
“We felt at the end of games a little stick wave was getting a little monotonous and getting a little tiresome and quite frankly, a little bit forced,” Hurricanes captain and celebration orchestrator Justin Williams says. “So we wanted to do a little bit more. We started off with something small and slowly we’ve been having a lot more fun with it.”
Old-fashioned hockey cranks don’t like it. Opponents have mocked it. But the Hurricanes will keep doing it. Nicknamed the “Storm Surge,” the postgame celebrations after home wins innovate on the standard practice of lining up, raising sticks and saluting the fans. It’s an enigma in the oft-strapped-for-fun NHL, with players choreographing human dominoes, bowling and a game of duck, duck, goose on the ice.
Along with owner Tom Dundon embracing the team’s Hartford Whalers heritage, the celebrations are part franchise-wide rebranding effort to inject fun into a team and fan base without much recent success. The Storm Surge has rapidly evolved in the team’s recent winning spurt, and Williams says he takes any ideas from others and stores them away (the team had a Super Bowl-themed celebration lined up, but the Canes lost).
The tradition started after the Hurricanes’ second home victory of the 2018–19 season. The players stood along the blueline, started a Skol clap while DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win” blared through the arena, glided down the ice in unison and leapt into the boards like a rookie scoring his first goal. It didn’t have the theatrics of the team’s more recent celebrations, but it was premeditated—and, despite a recent awakening in football and soccer team celebrations, it’s alien to hockey culture.
“We want to have fun when you win,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said after that game. “The game should be fun. That’s what we’re doing and we want the players to enjoy winning and the fans to enjoy being here. Our owner has been pushing that all the way, trying to make it a fun experience for everybody involved. Why wouldn’t you try something a little different?”
Brind’Amour, who ranks 23rd for most career games played, said he hadn’t seen anything like that in the NHL. For good reason: the Hurricanes’ postgame antics would have been considered taboo in Brind’Amour’s playing days. Even now, the celebrations spawned a small chorus of criticism. Ex–NHL executive Brian Burke called it “pee-wee garbage” and “bush league.” Don Cherry said the players are a bunch of “jerks.” Other hockey commentators question whether a team with Stanley Cup aspirations could seriously celebrate like the Hurricanes.
Carolina isn’t worrying about that. Trade deadline uncertainty aside, the Hurricnaes lead the league in shots for per game (35.2) and 21-year-old Sebastian Aho and 24-year-old Teuvo Teravainen lead the team in points. The celebrations are a piece of a revitalized locker room that has stuck together despite losing veteran Jordan Staal to injury and suffering two three-game losing streaks in December. Since then, the celebrations have grown in flamboyance. And the wins keep coming, too.
“It’s a different dynamic than last year,” Williams says. “That’s a statement that I’m very comfortable saying. We’re having fun with each other. It’s a really good group, but really good groups only stay together if you win. That’s our main goal.”