Hurricanes GM Don Waddell busy on multiple fronts ahead of outdoor game, trade deadline

The month leading up to the NHL’s trade deadline is always a hectic time for general managers.

And if your team happens to be hosting an outdoor game …

“Nerve-racking but very exciting,” Canes president and general manager Don Waddell said Wednesday.

Tickets for example. The players want to bring in their families for the game, several traveling from overseas. That could be 300 tickets.

“A nightmare,” Waddell quipped, smiling as he said it.

If so, a good one to have. Waddell said the makings of the Hurricanes bringing a Stadium Series outdoor game to the Triangle began before Tom Dundon officially bought the team from Peter Karmanos.

On Saturday, Feb. 18, the puck will drop and the Canes and Washington Capitals will go at it in N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium — not an exhibition game, Waddell noted, but a regular-season Metropolitan Division game to be won.

“It’s a great opportunity for our fans,” he said. “Come that Saturday night, I just want the two points. Let’s face it, it’s an important game in the standings.”

Waddell said the Caps have been allotted 6,000 to 7,000 tickets that have been sold, saying, “There’s a lot of excitement in their market, too.”

Work began this week with installing the rink at Carter-Finley and work on the ice surface could begin Friday. As Waddell spoke Wednesday, the backdrop was a black outline of the rink on the stadium field below.

The outline of the hockey rink to be used in the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stadium Series outdoor game against Washington is placed at NC State’s Carter-Finley Stadium. (Chip Alexander)
The outline of the hockey rink to be used in the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stadium Series outdoor game against Washington is placed at NC State’s Carter-Finley Stadium. (Chip Alexander)

“We’ve been working on this for over four years,” Waddell said. “It’s been an incredible amount of work by a lot of people.

“We’re excited about it. The buildup has been tremendous but now we’re at that part where we need good weather and we all come together for a great event.”

Waddell said that Wednesday on a sunny day when the temperature was in the low 70s. The extended forecast for game day is partly cloudy with a high of 50 and temperatures possibly in the 30s when the game begins at 8 p.m.

Waddell said Dundon, who became majority owner in January 2018, sought out an outdoor game “right off the bat” and was “in the ear” of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Those who know Dundon know he was relentless.

“He said, ’Let’s get ourselves in a rotation to get an outdoor game,’ so we were very progressive there.,” Waddell said.

Waddell conceded it was a hard sale to the NHL at first. In 2018, the Hurricanes had not been in the Stanley Cup playoffs since 2009 and home attendance was lagging. Some NHL types were skeptical.

Carter-Finley will hold about 54,000 for hockey. Could the Hurricanes handle something like that?

“They were a little concerned that things hadn’t gone that well for us on the ice and the attendance was down,” Waddell said.

But the Canes have been in the playoffs the past four years, and home attendance has averaged 18,493 this season, placing Carolina in the top 10 in the NHL. On the ice, the Hurricanes again lead the Metro Division, and Waddell said there could be an addition or two to the roster before the league’s March 3 deadline.

When tickets for the outdoor game were put on sale in October, they were quickly scooped up. When more tickets became available, they, too, were quickly scooped up.

Waddell said the NHL will pay the Hurricanes a fee for the home game, although not saying the amount.

“We’re going to expose hockey to a lot of people here in the region who have never been exposed to our game,” he said. “That’s what I’m excited about, to not only create more fans but make more people aware of Hurricane hockey.”