Carolina hosts first Winter Classic

Hockey players in a circle on the ice

By Kyle Stengel

The Carolina Hurricanes will play the Washington Capitals in the 2023 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series game at Carter Finley Stadium, which is home to the NC State football team, on Feb. 18. 

Out of the 82 games that NHL teams play during the regular season, only one game is played outside, with only two teams out of 32 getting to play outside. This is the first ever time the Carolina Hurricanes have been elected to not only host one of these games, but to play in one. 

Many people in the Raleigh area are excited about the first ever Winter Classic in North Carolina. 

“I’m sure it’s going to be awesome,” Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho said in an interview on the NHL website. “I know the fans are excited, and us players too.”

The Hurricanes were supposed to host the Stadium Series game at Carter Finley Stadium in 2021, but the COVID pandemic brought it to a halt. 

The Hurricanes vs Capitals matchup will bring in a big audience with the two teams being near the top of the league year in and year out. This game will not be the only big event where these teams have faced off. In 2019, the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Capitals in the Eastern Conference first round. 

“Obviously we’ve had a pretty good history here with them lately and they’ve become one of the best teams in the league for a while and that’s the type of team we are trying to become, so I think it’s a great fit and hopefully it’s a great game,” Carolina Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour stated on the Hurricanes website. 

Carter Finley Stadium holds 55,000 plus seats and will bring in not only hockey fans but people that haven’t had the chance to witness a game like this before. It is a major event occurring in the Raleigh area. 

Dawn Dillon, director of the First Year Experience at Peace, said that not only will the game itself be big but the festivities before, during, and after the game will be too. She is excited to see how the city embraces this big event.

“I think it is going to be very big, I think it’s something that is different and the element of it being an outdoor hockey game in sunny Raleigh,” Dillon said.

The Hurricanes will be hosting a Fan Fest downtown on Fayetteville Street on Feb. 17, the day before the game, as a way for fans to come together and celebrate the Carolina Hurricanes 25 years in North Carolina. The day will be filled with activities and entertainment from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. You can get photos with Canes alumni, a picture with the Stanley Cup, enjoy live music and food trucks and more.

“The fan fest will be huge,” Dillon said. “It has a reputation of its own. It is very family friendly, everybody enjoys it.”