Carolina fans celebrate state's first major pro title

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Fans screamed into the humid night and fireworks blasted away in nearby neighborhoods after the Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup, bringing North Carolina its first major professional sports title.

"We already own NASCAR, and now we own hockey."
-- Randy Bryant, Hurricanes fan from Holly Springs, N.C.

"If it gets any better than this, shoot me now," David Ruff, 42, of Raleigh, said outside the RBC Center after the Hurricanes beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 in Game 7 on Monday night.

"We're finally on the scene professionally," said Josh Pagan, 33, of Raleigh.

Jeff Gilchrist, 27, of Raleigh, popped the cork on a bottle of bubbly.

"I brought the champagne and cigars tonight because I knew what was going to happen," he said.

All three men said they are North Carolina natives who have warmed to hockey since the Hurricanes moved from Hartford, Conn., in 1997.

Ruff said he's been a hockey fan for about two years.

"It's fast paced, it's hard-hitting, it's fun. It'll give an old man like me a heart attack," he said.

Jim Dasher, 39, of Raleigh, said he didn't sit down during the game.

"It was deafening. I think everyone is hoarse coming out. Everyone was screaming and yelling," he said.

Randy Bryant, 42, of Holly Springs said bringing the NHL championship to North Carolina ought to make more people appreciate hockey.

"We already own NASCAR, and now we own hockey," he said.

Raleigh police were stationed around the area Monday. Police also increased their presence around bars, restaurants and other areas where people went to watch the game or gather for postgame celebrations, spokesman Jim Sughrue said.

"It's just to make sure people have a good time, a safe time, within the law," Sughrue said. "From a sporting standpoint, there have certainly been football and basketball games here where a lot was on the line. We have people in the department that are skilled at putting together plans for those occasions."