Hurricanes Owner Tom Dundon Wants Fun

Tom Dundon, owner of the Carolina Hurricanes, wants the experience his team’s fans have when they attend games to be fun. As one of those fans, he also wants to have fun. In an interview with the Triangle Business Journal, Dundon said, “I’ve got to have more offense, I want to lose 5-4, not 2-1. If we lose 5-4, I’ll at least have fun.” (From “Carolina Hurricanes Owner Dundon Talks Hockey, Business and Why He Hates Losing” – Triangle Business Journal – 12/12/18)

The fans will have fun if the Hurricanes start winning, whether it’s 2-1 or 8-0. They want to see their team playing in the postseason. That would increase the fun quotient exponentially.

Fun Times With Dundon?

An objective look at the Dundon tenure that started in early 2018 reveals that not a lot has changed. He made a big splash when he bought the Hurricanes, pledging to enhance the fan experience. For a little while, he lowered the price of parking and at PNC Arena. Concessions prices also were lowered.

Tom Dundon
Tom Dundon, center (Carolina Hurricanes)

But, those were initial short-lived moves designed to capture the attention of fans who may have stopped coming to the Hurricanes games. Attendance seems to be up over last season, but a look at the numbers says “not really.” The average home attendance in 2017-18 was 13,320, versus an average of 13,495 so far this season.

This is odd because the from the vantage of media row, the building has looked fuller this season than it has in a long time. Also, the announcement of low attendance figures hasn’t seemed to have been as often an occurrence this season. Nevertheless, the numbers are what they are, and in part have not changed because there hasn’t really been anything tangible done to enhance the fan experience this season.

Even promotions wherein the fans are given team hats have gone by the wayside. The opening night of the regular season, the team gave away towels that were placed on sold seats, not given to fans as they walked into the arena, as was always the case under previous owner Peter Karmanos.

No Giant Scoreboard Yet

One of Dundon’s most ambitious ideas to enhance the fan experience is to replace the current scoreboard with a new, giant one. Last February, Zach Spedden wrote at “Perhaps the biggest addition, however, would be that of a new center-hung scoreboard in time for the 2018-19 NHL season. While the new scoreboard has been discussed for a later season, officials at Thursday’s Centennial Authority [the group that oversees the venue] meeting expressed a willingness to consider completing the project on an earlier schedule.”

Ultimately the Authority said that the new scoreboard could not be installed in time for this season due to a lack of time to ensure that it be safely installed.

“Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon had asked the authority, the arena landlord, to move up plans for a new blueline-to-blueline scoreboard and have it in place for the 2018-19 season. Committee chairman Steve Stroud said the authority would need more time to assess structural changes in the arena that will be needed to install a scoreboard that could weigh 50,000 pounds.” – Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer (From “Hurricanes’ New PNC Arena Scoreboard Put on Hold For a Year” – News & Observer – 4/16/18)

Dundon Got Them to Wear Green

One of Dundon’s ideas that he was able to pull off was convincing his team to dress in Hartford Whalers uniforms and play a game against the Boston Bruins. Most everyone reports that it was a rousing success. The Hurricanes won, the uniforms looked fantastic and of course, will provide another option for fans to consider when wanting to purchase team gear. The mood in the arena was vibrant and exciting.

Carolina Hurricanes' Sebastian Aho
Carolina Hurricanes’ Sebastian Aho (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

Missing from the “remembering our heritage” theme on Whalers night was former radio play-by-play voice of the Hurricanes and Whalers from the very beginning, Chuck Kaiton. Dundon had made moves to change the radio delivery in the offseason and apparently Kaiton was overlooked as a part of the Whalers heritage worth celebrating on Whalers night. The Hurricanes will take their green game on the road in a return engagement with the Bruins on March 5.

Winning Would be Fun

No matter if hat giveaways are gone or green uniforms are being worn or eventually a gargantuan scoreboard is in place, what matters is winning. Dundon says he wants to win. One would think that would lead to bringing a proven scorer to the team. So far, the only thing the Hurricanes have done regarding a proven scorer is trade one – Jeff Skinner – to the Buffalo Sabres.

Sure, the celebration, or celly if you’re up on current lingo, is fun. The most recent one led by Brock McGinn after the Hurricanes 4-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets may have been their best post-game performance yet:

Winning is the catalyst for fun in professional sports. Winning leads to celebrations and to more fans filling the arena. The Hurricanes have had trouble scoring. Dundon finding a player who can consistently score and help lead this team to a spot in the playoffs would really be fun, not just for the fans, but for him, too.