They say that Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Or at least that’s what Paul McCartney says before he plays “Wonderwall” at his concert. Sometimes just getting someone to talk about you and recognize your existence is flattery in and of itself. This is what the Carolina Hurricanes (and more importantly their fans) found out as they were finishing up yet another home win on Saturday night against the Dallas Stars.
Don Cherry, a man who has ignored hockey below the Mason Dixon line for so long that couldn’t find North Carolina on a map if you handed him a map of NORTH CAROLINA, decided to call out the Hurricanes on his weakly weekly segment, “Coaches Corner.” And rather than mention that the team has put together a stellar winning record since the calendar flipped to 2019 and sit on the doorstep of a playoff spot in February for the first time in a decade, he goes on a rant that left him so lost for proper sentence structure that his partner Don McLean was looking around nervously for the AED machine and the closest paramedics. (Little known fact, you have to put loonies and twoonies into Canadian AED defibrillators due to socialized medicine!) Donny Cherry picked the “Storm Surge” celebrations that team has been performing for every home win for the growing crowds at PNC arena.
Weeeeellll, that’s not really how he sees it. Cherry thought this “Bunch of Jerks” were mocking the other team for losing, and that this was all a financial gimmick by non-hockey guy Tom Dundon, and how Justin Williams would never stoop to something like this (while literally minutes later, Justin Williams was doing the Limbo under a hockey stick); the same Justin Williams who has been credited for coming up with the idea for the celly in the first place.
This clip of Don Cherry hit the Twitters right about the time the Hurricanes took a TV time out, and when it became clear that the game was in their hands in the final minute, the crowd roared out in chant “BUNCH OF JERKS! BUNCH OF JERKS!” out onto the ice and into the TV microphones. I have no idea what the players thought of this since they hadn’t seen it yet, but that phrase was immediately tackled it and adopted it against its will into everything Canes Social Media. From a Simpson’s meme, to updating the tagline on their Twitter page to read “Carolina Hurricanes: That bunch of jerks with the fun celebrations!”
And it exploded everywhere. T-shirt designs from Section 328 and local designer House of Swank hit the scene very quickly, but the organization also produced their own by the end of the weekend and teased them onto the internets as well causing one hell of a stir.
The Hurricanes’ online store sold out almost immediately before reordering, and even though it said it would take a week or two to ship at $12 on top of the $32 to buy, it didn’t stop 1,680 shirts from being sold in 41 states, Canada and the Netherlands in 24 hours. Brian Burke’s son Patrick, who has no fear of giving his old man the business publicly, offered to present one of these shirts to his dad (one of the first people to criticize the celly in the early part of the season) if people donated $1,000 to his GoFundMe for You Can Play; some Caniac drop the $1k within 8 minutes of that message. The truck with the shirts just arrived at The Eye right before the game and they smartly made a LOT of them.
The organization caught this lightning in a bottle and are selling it fast. As someone who never considered himself to be great at much of anything growing up, I can connect with the social ju-jitsu the Hurricanes have pulled with this. If someone cut me down, I learned to cast off their statement and then cut myself down even further in three other ways before criticizing them for the inadequate imagination at finding something more impressive to say. While the Hurricanes haven’t gone quite so far with this requiring therapy, they’ve adopted it as something to rally around as they push for their first playoff berth in about a decade. Much like the Golden Knights rallied around the idea that they were misfits and castoffs last season, I’ll gladly take this over some of the horrific events other cities have dealt with that emotionally drove their local sports franchises.
Getting back to Cherry’s earlier point about the Surge making fun of the other team, it’s not and it never has been. The Skol Clap never starts until the other team has left the ice. This is about the team that’s still there, and the fans that are sticking with them. And you know what? A lot of other team’s fans are sticking around to watch the antics as well, because they understand it’s not about embarrassing another group of guys who just tasted defeat. You see that more and more in the comments sections, and the fact that people who aren’t even fans of Carolina want a Bunch of Jerks shirt too! And hey when the dust settled, even Don Cherry had a chuckle at the shirts. But not the Duck, Duck, Goose! ■
Jim Howard is a Carolina Hurricanes fan and reformed baseball card collector who is trying to keep the hockey collection from becoming overwhelming. And while he wishes he could give Crosby the business with his mitt, he is in fact NOT the goalie for the Red Wings.