The build up
The noise was building with each passing moment, like a wave in the ocean, gaining strength and momentum as it inches closer to the shore.
Two minutes before puck drop, Stormy, the Hurricanes’ mascot, hit the ice. More fans were in their seats. The Carolina Hurricanes pregame hype video started at exactly 6:58 p.m., and the decibel reading in the building reached 95.5 — about the same as a subway train at 200 feet, a jackhammer at 50 feet, or a hand drill.
The first time public address announcer Wade Minter mentioned the Hurricanes, the decibel reading jumped to 101.1 — about the same as a motorcycle. Then, a lull — a series recap video calms the crowd, if only briefly. The calm before the storm.
A video on the arena’s big screen shows a camera panning the hallway near the locker room, and the words “They can hear you” flashed on the screen.
The crowd lost it. The new decibel reading? 105.1 — a shade above a chainsaw, and a shade below a rock concert. Garner native and country music recording artist Scotty McCreery, winner of American Idol’s tenth season, sounded a crank siren, and the roof felt like it was going to blow off the 23-year-old building.
By the time the starters were announced, everyone was standing. The sound level hit 108 decibels — there’s that rock concert level again — after the national anthem.
‘Like nothing else I’ve ever heard’
Minter now calls the game from press row, located on the fifth floor at PNC Arena, wedged between the top row of seats and the coaching and broadcast boxes adjacent to the rafters. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, he was at ice level.
“It’s like nothing else I’ve ever heard,” Minter said. “When I was down in the box during those playoff runs, you could feel the glass just vibrating from the sound. You can feel just the air and the sound moving around your face and it is just the loudest thing I think I’ve ever heard.”
Years ago, when the Hurricanes first dubbed PNC the loudest building in professional hockey, the decibel reading on the ice was near 130 — equivalent to a jet taking off from an aircraft carrier.
Through the years, Minter has noticed how difficult that makes it for opposing teams.
“You see it all the time, guys trying to talk to each other about where they’re going to position themselves on a face off,” Minter said. “And you can see them getting frustrated because they can’t communicate with their teammates about what they want to do. They have to kind of resort to just pointing and hoping that their teammates figure out what they need out of them.”
Sometimes, Minter said, coaches call timeouts, and it’s pointless. Players can’t hear a coach standing inches away from them and have a “blank face” because they can’t hear a thing.
“It’s very loud in here,” Bruins forward Taylor Hall said earlier this week. “The acoustics, I think, they pronounce that even more.”
Chris Greenley, senior director of in-game marketing for the Canes, pointed out that the lower bowl at PNC Arena holds more fans than most hockey arenas.
“The percentage of fans down in that space,” Greenley said, “I think it really makes an impact on how loud it can get.”
Scoring adds even more noise
On the first goal of the game Tuesday night, a point shot from Jaccob Slavin, the decibel meter jumped to 108. It bounced between 107-108 on the second goal, this one from Tony DeAngelo. On the third goal, credited to Seth Jarvis, the building was bouncing as the meter hit 111.1 — an auto horn at 3 feet.
“The first goal of the game, in front of the home crowd, it started roaring,” DeAngelo said after the game. “Then you get a power play and now it’s (2-0) and momentum plays on your side.”
During the first-round series with the Bruins, Carolina dropped two games on the road in Boston after taking the first two at home, evening the series at 2-2.
DeAngelo appreciated the assist.
“You’ve got to remember, Game 1 was my first playoff game with fans,” DeAngelo said. “When I’ve been to playoff games as a kid, I grew up going to Philly games and stuff, which is a crazy crowd. Our crowd is the loudest that I’ve played in front of, been in front of, and it can make a big difference for us.”
‘You can feel it in your chest’
Ballew was asked if he could properly quantify what it feels like when PNC gets rocking.
The N.C. State graduate has attended packed basketball games at PNC, and playoff hockey. There’s no comparison between the two.
“Nothing compares to playoff hockey,” Ballew said. “When you scream and stand up, you can feel it in your chest. If you stand up too quickly you’ll pass out.”
Some fans do prepare themselves, either with over-the-ear headphones or earplugs. Most, though, soak it all in for all three periods. Greenley said some of that starts even hours before the puck drops, that “southern tailgate culture,” he joked.
“People are ready to go for our games,” Greenley said. “And it’s noticeable around the league that it’s very loud. The team feeds off that energy.”
And they’ll do that at least one more time this season — either in Game 7 of this first-round series against Boston on Saturday night, or, they hope, in Game 1 of the second round sometime early next week.
Minter said he’s visited nine or 10 arenas across the NHL, and nothing compares to PNC.
“There’s something about PNC Arena,” Minter said. “There’s something specifically about PNC Arena during the playoffs where people push it up that extra notch, and it’s a sight to experience.”
This story was originally published May 11, 2022 7:42 AM.
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