Mutual Disrespect: Why Carolina fans hate Buffalo
We’ve all heard stories of that series in 2006. We’ve read online about the hatred since then. But, for me, my first true look at the Hurricanes/Sabres “rivalry” came yesterday in my first visit to RBC Center.
From what you read about online, you’d expect to have to run the gauntlet wearing Sabres gear in that building. After attending Game 4 against Boston last year, I’m pretty sure I can handle anything, but mentally I was preparing for dealing with a lot of smack-talking.
Especially in light of News & Observer columnist Luke DeCock’s commentary on game day, pleading for ‘Canes fans to defend their arena:
This is the Hurricanes’ last chance to make the playoffs. A loss today and they’re finished. Their only hope is to pick up two points on the Sabres today, win their final three games and hope for a little help elsewhere…
…There’s too much on the line for the Hurricanes today for their fans to be bullied out of their own building. It’s time for the Hurricanes to defend their home turf, on and off the ice. Because otherwise, the Buffalo fans win.
I’ve visited many arenas around the league to catch the Sabres on the road, Raleigh being the 9th of 29 cities sporting an NHL team outside of the 716 area code. The tailgating was as I expected, not what you’d see in Orchard Park on a Sunday, but much more than you’d see in other NHL cities. I’m sure if Buffalo had that kind of weather, and that kind of space, it’d be similar. Among with the ‘Canes fans who were obviously regulars based on their set-ups, there was plenty of Sabres fans out in the parking lot having a few pregame beers… hostility nowhere to be found.
For the most part, that was absent on Sunday. Sure, the occasional comment would come from a ‘Canes fan. (Walking in, some tool in a personalized jersey (forget the name) was poking fun at my Enroth jersey… I would’ve loved to run into him again after the game) Other than that, fans in Carolina gear kept to themselves. Most of the crowd noise was reactionary, not appreciating the “Let’s go Buffalo!” chants raining down from the upper deck.
It seemed to me that both sides were being extremely civil for most of the game, unwilling to put themselves out there for risk of the harassment they’d take later on for it. The distaste went towards their own team. At least until Marc-Andre Gragnani’s point shot found its way into the net.
Naturally, it was euphoria for Sabres fans, and a kick-in-the-balls for Carolina fans. So, in the hallways on the way out, outside the arena, it was a constant stream of high-fives and chants between Sabres fans, and Hurricanes fans talking shit.
It’s tough to watch your arena invaded by opposing, vocal fans. We know that. Leafs fans are assholes, we don’t like them. But for the most part, it’s easy in Buffalo because it’s usually the Toronto supporters walking out with their tail between their legs. But from the Toronto perspective, they don’t hate us like we hate them. Their rivals are Ottawa and Montreal. It’s a similiar phenomenon in Carolina. Buffalo does have other rivals, mainly Philadelphia and arguably Boston. Carolina might not be top five on the list when you consider Ottawa and Montreal.
But ‘Canes fans? Is there a team they dislike more than Buffalo? I don’t think so.
So you have this interesting dynamic of a team with a small fanbase who is in most cases fans of the team specifically than fans of the sport, whose home region has a significant amount of Buffalo natives who hold on to their teams since they couldn’t hold onto their hometown. So when their team comes to town? It’s facepaint. It’s being loud. It’s one of the few chances they get to celebrate their heritage.
From the few North Carolina residents wearing Sabres gear I talked to, they don’t seem to follow the team as hardcore as those in Buffalo. No offense to those who I didn’t talk to, but I struggled to have an insightful conversation about the team. But everyone there hated the ‘Canes with a passion.
The best part is, Carolina honestly doesn’t do much to distance themselves from hating on Buffalo, they celebrate it. They showed everyone in the crowd with anti-Buffalo signs. Fans in the crowd sported “Buffalo sucks” shirts. They took shots when they could. Seeing video of Bills QB Jim Kelly saying “Let’s go ‘Canes” isn’t easy to stomach for staunch Buffalo sports fans.
But, Buffalo fans will always respond. Whether it be the inferiority complex implanted in our heads, or just a sense of duty, Buffalo always hangs in there.
And once that Gragnani shot went it, the “Caniacs” went on attack. The main topics:
- Bragging about having a Stanley Cup. (It has been five years, ‘Canes fans. Failing to follow it up with any playoff runs after just gives credence to the fluke theory.)
- Buffalo being a shitty place. (Original.)
- Scott Norwood (which is odd, because I don’t believe Raleigh’s NFL team has won a Super Bowl either. Oh wait, they don’t have a football team. My bad.)
- Brett Hull (information they obviously found on the internet, since most ‘Canes fans there were unaware of hockey’s existence until the last few years.)
Sabres fans usually didn’t respond specifically, instead celebrating the victory of the day. If anything in response, it was a warning to Carolina fans to work on getting tee times in the near future. Listening to the ‘Canes fans launch shots, there seemed to be a sense of fear. They seemed to be resigned to the fact that their team wasn’t getting anywhere. But there’s a fear that if Buffalo ever succeeds, they’ll have nothing to hold against the invaders.The crazy part is that the “invaders” are the locals.
Basically, the rivalry seems to exist on a different plane in Carolina. It’s a bigger deal to them than anyone in Buffalo, because western New Yorkers are too worried about the teams the Sabres have more than five years of history with. Do they realize that? I don’t know. I’m not sure they’re aware of the fact that things happened in the NHL before they got a team.
So, in addition to a pretty entertaining game, I think I have a grasp on what goes on down there that gets ‘Canes fans so upset. It’s almost a superiority complex. They want that arena to themselves. They want to think that they’re a great hockey community. But they see Sabres fans, coming out in their house, and being unwavered despite not having much to be proud of. What will they do when Buffalo actually wins something?
It’s a scary time in Carolina. Hang on to that ’06 Cup victory while you can, ‘Canes.