You’d be forgiven if you didn’t know that UNC has a hockey team.
Carolina Hockey plays on the club level, so rather than actually having any NCAA support or being able to offer out scholarships, players actually pay for the right to take the ice and face off against fellow club hockey teams. They have to rent ice time in rinks across the area, squeezing in time for practice as well as games, and still go to school like any other college student. It’s a real “for the love of the game” system, but that doesn’t make it any less competitive.
For reference, see this goal that went viral once it was posted:
Greatest goal in @ACCHockey history?#GoHeels @NHLNetwork @HeyBarber pic.twitter.com/d0g1GsKtEP— Carolina Hockey (@UNCHockey) January 15, 2023
The Tar Heels play their games all around the triangle, but call the Orange County Sportsplex in Hillsborough home. Their league, the ACCHL, has teams all up and down the east coast, including local rivals NC State. Just like every other sport you’re aware of, they have tournaments that crown champions, but the two club teams 30 miles apart end up competing quite often.
State’s club hockey team has historically been good, and the UNC team has had trouble up until this year being able to win big matches with them. Earlier this season, though, they were able to beat the IcePack in the signature game at PNC Arena to take down the Governor’s Cup for the first time since it’s been awarded.
Except this season there’s a bigger signature game.
As any area hockey fans know by now, Carter-Finley Stadium hosted the NHL’s annual Stadium Series on Saturday, between the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals. To have the event, the NHL built a temporary ice rink on the field that, literally, took over a week to install between the piping, boards, ice, and so forth. So why go through all that trouble for just one game?
On top of other Hurricanes related events, it was announced that the UNC and NC State club hockey teams would face off tonight on the same ice that the pros played on. For these guys who paid for the right to play for a year, it’s going to be quite a change to go from playing in rinks that hold a couple hundred people to a 57,000 seat football stadium.
Unlike the Stadium Series, though, this event is free. The team is charging $10 for parking around the stadium for the festivities that begin at 4 PM with the Hurricanes Alumni Game, but beyond that the game itself is free. Per a release from the Hurricanes about the Alumni Game, folks will be able to enter between Gates 8 and 9 on the East side of the stadium.
One thing that will be like the Stadium Series, though, is that both squads are breaking out new uniforms for the first time. We’ll skip State’s, because man, what the Tar Heels are going to bring out on the ice is just amazing:
A blizzard is coming to Carter-Finley on Monday ❄️ #GoHeels pic.twitter.com/Mf2R0e5iZ9— Carolina Hockey (@UNCHockey) February 16, 2023
I mean, the full look with the argyle on the helmets, the throwback to the basketball style “North Carolina” circling around the seal, the clean white, and the number in the upper corner-it’s just clean. How much noise did these guys make with this reveal? Hop on their Twitter timeline and you’ll see several big hockey accounts showing off these beauties. These include Spittin’ Chiclets, SI, Bleacher Report, BarDown, and John Buccigross, the ESPN anchor who celebrates “Cawlidge Hawkey” (basically picture it being said like a Massachusetts native), and would wear different club jersey — or as hockey folks call them, sweaters — on the air with Scott Van Pelt, saying Club Hockey is College Hockey.
Oh did I mention you, yes you can own one of these beauties?
Carolina’s sweaters have been sold by the club hockey team for a while on their web site. I picked up their white sweater a couple years ago and will be wearing it to the game
As someone who has purchased several hockey jerseys, I’ll just say the quality and value of this fit is amazing. Thus, I have no doubt the ones they’ve crafted for the outdoor game will be equally as nice. Oh, by the way, unlike NHL sweaters that tack on about $60 to get a name and number added, the price you pay for this jersey includes a name and number. You better hurry, though. The team is only taking orders up until 2/28, or a week from tomorrow. I’ll take time for the order to come in, but it’ll be worth it.
So a free event along with some fire threads not enough to bring you in? How about some UNC Football royalty coming in?
Got some special guests coming tomorrow night @DrakeMaye2 @1MjWilliams2 #GoHeels pic.twitter.com/M1uIJJwZkP— Carolina Hockey (@UNCHockey) February 20, 2023
Maye coming to watch is a bit of new wrinkle, but Marquise is absolutely a hockey fan. His timeline is full of rooting for the Hurricanes, and has been the Siren Sounder bringing the team out onto the ice. The duo showing up will likely draw more Tar Heels into Carter-Finley.
So I hope you’ll be joining other Tar Heels in Carter-Finley on Monday night to watch a unique college sporting event, and one you may never get a chance to see again. It may not be as hyped as the games on Saturday or yesterday, but it should still be a good time.