The Carolina Hurricanes' "Storm Surge" postgame celebrations began with a rather simple concept: What if winning was fun?
"We want to have fun when we win. The game should be fun. We want the players to enjoy winning and the fans to enjoy being here," captain Justin Williams said last October after the Hurricanes began leading a slow clap at center ice followed by leaps into the end boards. "I just think that if we can have fun doing what we love, we're going to be better for it. Hockey's a tough game. There are good days and bad days. But if you can enjoy yourself by working hard, we're going to be a lot more cohesive on the ice. Become not just guys on the ice, but brothers on the ice."
To some, they were a band of brothers, winning 24 times in 41 home games in their push for a postseason berth. To others, or specifically to one Canadian pundit, they were "a bunch of jerks" whose postgame stunts had no business in the National Hockey League, especially as they grew more elaborate as the season progressed.
The Hurricanes announced on March 28 that they would no longer perform the Storm Surges this season. "It has been an absolute treat celebrating victories with our fans and muddying up the waters a little bit. We've created a buzz again in Carolina but we know ultimately we've done that by winning games and playing for each other," Williams said. That deprived us of a new one after the Canes clinched a playoff spot with a win at home on Thursday night.
Now that they've competed their regular-season home schedule, and put the Storm Surge in mothballs for the time being, here is a definitive ranking of Carolina's postgame celebrations. In honor of the Hurricanes, we're using the National Weather Service storm categories to measure their intensity, and then ranking each celebration within those categories. So our favorite is No. 1 in Category 5, and the least effective one is at the bottom of Category 1. Enjoy!
Few things are more sacred in North Carolina sports than NCAA basketball in March. Not only did the Canes honor that in this Surge, but they put on their best combination of team effort -- all those moving picks -- and athletic achievement, what with Trevor van Riemsdyk getting his Zion Williamson on with that move to the basket.
Two words: ice dribbling. We don't care if it's allegedly easier than it looks, it was awesome.
Oh, the boxes this one checks: nostalgia, video games, participation from the game operations department, players using gloves as ducks, players using sticks as hunting rifles.
Defenseman Justin Faulk, who was in the between-the-benches "duck blind" with Micheal Ferland, told me that the "Duck Hunt" theme was inspired by his inability to go hunting with his buddies back home in Minnesota during the season. Unsung MVP of this Surge: Ferland actually doing a duck call before the Canes threw their fowl gloves.
In honor of pitchers and catchers reporting, the Canes engaged in a little baseball skit. Warren Foegele took Dougie Hamilton yard (with the mascot as the catcher), and rounded the bases before getting mobbed by his teammates who left the "dugout."
Completely underrated aspect of this one: The electrolyte beverage baths they gave him during the mob scene. Forget the curve, Dougie, give 'em the heater.
Some backstory on this bowling Surge: In an interview with ESPN, Williams admitted he was nervous about rolling his helmet down the ice at his teammates, because throwing that thing straight is apparently harder than it looks. But he bowled a strike, and this was one of the funniest concepts the Canes had.
Oh, and major extra credit to Ferland, who played the role of "wobbly pin that refuses to fall" to perfection.
We imagine a young Brock McGinn dreamed of one day playing in the NHL. Perhaps he also dreamed of being a superhero ... like perhaps the mighty Thor, God of Thunder. We can't imagine he ever thought he'd be able to combine the two as he did in this instant classic Surge, wielding his stick like Mjolnir (or Stormbreaker, if we're going with current MCU timeline) to fell his teammates. For Asgard!
The Surge begins jarringly with their pig mascot at center ice, alone, doing the Skol clap. Then the players come rushing out onto the rink from the back, sans sticks. Instead, they have "Bunch of Jerks" shirts to toss to the fans, which were created after "Hockey Night In Canada" curmudgeon Don Cherry dubbed the players as such for these celebrations.
Just take a step back and consider: an NHL team from North Carolina celebrating and acting as human T-shirt cannons with their fans, skating out to the moniker of a "bunch of jerks" given to them by Canada's most prominent hockey voice. Is that the essence of the Storm Surge or what?
In which forward Jordan Martinook donned boxing gloves and took on four-time heavyweight champion of the world Evander Holyfield at center ice for a one-punch fight. This was pretty cool, but felt like one of those long-running shows that adds a bunch of famous guest stars because it's running after the Super Bowl. ("It's 'Friends,' but with Julia Roberts and Jean-Claude Van Damme!")
But, who among us wouldn't want to do the job for "The Real Deal" at center ice like Martinook did?
This was one of the first times the Hurricanes' game operations department got involved with the Surge, as it played the "Limbo Rock" while the players skated under a "limbo stick" held by "stay-at-home" defensemen Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce.
(Announcer Tripp Tracy declaring that "it's a luau!" when the pig mascot fell to the ice was a particular highlight.)
This was just goofy fun. Inspired by "Fishin' in the Dark" by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, some of the Hurricanes toss their lines into center ice from the benches while their teammates skate around as fish in the "pond." The boys hook themselves a 196-pound Jordan Martinook. (We might have tossed him back to try and snag that 230-pound Dougie Hamilton.)
Weirdly, this would be the second time the Hurricanes pretended to be aquatic creatures during a postgame victory celebration.
The Hurricanes changed up the "Skol clap" by banging their sticks on the ice, which was a nice touch. But the highlight here, obviously, is the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft sliding through a phalanx of his teammates into an empty net. More "human puck" than "human bowling," but hilarious in either case.
There's a lot to unpack here. So the Hurricanes were dressed as their former selves, the Hartford Whalers, for a special heritage night (and to sell a ton of nostalgia gear). Pucky The Whale, the beloved lumpy mascot of the Whalers, was there as well. The best part about this Surge is that it left the announcers (and others) completely baffled, but we assume they're supposed to be ... beached whales, maybe?
In any case, this gets bumped up a category for including the Whalers, and bumped right back down one for failing to use an en-masse "Free Willy" leap over the shortest player's head, which would have been epic.
The third Surge the team performed was the one that made the hockey world start wondering exactly how outrageous these shenanigans were going to get. The Canes started skating toward one end of the ice, reversed course, started skating to the other end and then all of them fell on their bums and started doing the Evgeny Kuznetsov kayak paddle with their sticks. Brilliant in every way, especially in its timing.
The classic children's game, duck, duck, goose, is transferred to the Storm Surge. It was cute, if not one of their most kinetic efforts. But it does earn extra credit for being the celebration that triggered Justin Bourne of The Athletic to complain that these stunts cut into valuable postgame "process" time.
"I just can't imagine, personally, being a player with serious designs on a Cup, sitting in a team meeting where a guy suggests we do a duck, duck, goose celebration if we win the hockey match and being like, 'YES, we are on track.'" (Narrator: "They were on track.")
As the saying goes, you never forget your first time. The Hurricanes' first attempt at this lunacy didn't feature the fan participation or elaborate staging that would eventually define these celebrations, but what it lacked in frills it made up for in pure joy and giddy energy from surprisingly shameless players.
Another sports homage from the Canes, as the boys go curling after their victory against Buffalo. While the subtext is delicious -- the "Jerks" from Raleigh parodying one of Canada's favorite pastimes -- the lesson learned here is that helmets move really fast on the ice, leaving this Surge a little on the stunted side.
The official title of this Surge is "riding the pony," which is what happens when a group of guys are too embarrassed to admit that they're playing witches. And don't give me any of that Quidditch stuff -- this is straight up Elphaba Thropp of western Oz posturing.
One of those Surges that's an A-plus in concept and maybe a B-plus in execution. If the announcers didn't tell us it was a 'W' (for the win), we might have suspected this was a salute to carbon monoxide. Plus, some of the players started getting up before the letter was competed. This Surge needed a marching band conductor.
The last Surge of the 2018-19 regular season, after Williams announced the team wouldn't perform them in the playoffs. Everything comes full circle to the first Surge.
The Hurricanes line up on the blue lines, race at one another and bump butts. It was fine as a misdirection from the usual race to the boards, but a bit derivative of NFL celebrations.
Another variation on the initial Surge, this time with the players lining up on the blue lines and skating through one another before leaping into the glass. Points for avoiding collisions at the very least.
When your nickname is the Hurricanes, having the players scatter to the four winds is wholly appropriate, if not exactly as innovative as their other attempts.
Maybe they were a little exhausted after an overtime win over Chicago, because this Sebastian Aho-led Surge was a bit pedestrian. Instead of racing from the red line to the end boards, they raced from the benches to the glass near the penalty boxes. If nothing else, an argument for widening the rink in the NHL.
A clumsy sophomore effort with a synchronicity of clapping resembling a confused grandfather at a Queen concert. That said, Warren Foegele caught air on his leap into the glass.