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Upfront : Regional news at a glance

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Upfront: Regional News at a Glance 2 R e g i o n F o c u s | F o u r t h Q u a r t e r | 2 0 1 0 UPFRONT Regional News at a Glance Sunbelt Hockey All-Star Location is a Coup for ‘Caniacs’ The All-Star game wasn’t the first time the Triangle has served as a hockey magnet. The Hurricanes hosted the Stanley Cup Final in 2002 and 2006, as well as the NHL Entry Draft in 2004. The Hurricanes won the Cup in 2006, a sweet victory in light of the cancellation of the NHL 2004-2005 season due to a labor dispute. “Fifteen years ago, we had zero hockey presence,” says Scott DuPree, vice president for sports marketing for the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors’ Bureau. “Now we have thousands of fans; the arena draws big.” So big, it drew the All-Star game. The All-Star game and events were about “recognizing a market that’s already been successful,” says Mike Sundheim, the Hurricanes’ director of media relations. The team in 2009 and 2002 was in the playoffs in addition to its Stanley Cup win in 2006. “Nothing builds fan base like a championship.” The NHL began its expansion into the South in the 1990s — the Hurricanes moved from Hartford, Conn. The NHL sought a national footprint to win television contracts as the population shifted to the Sunbelt. It was assumed Northern fans would follow Southern teams, according to Larry DeGaris, associate professor of sports marketing at the University of Indianapolis. It hasn’t worked quite that way. The NHL has a three- year contract with Comcast’s Versus cable channel, not a major network. Some teams struggle to fill seats, especially during the economic slowdown as corporate demand for luxury seats declined. Today, the Southeast Division includes the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Atlanta Thrashers. Another problem: When Rangers fans from New York move, for example, to South Florida, they’re still Rangers fans, DeGaris says. “They can’t go to the [Rangers] games, but they can w

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