STORMY is the mascot of the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team. The team had formerly been the Hartford Whalers and their mascot had been a whale named "Pucky." Upon moving south in 1997, the team's name changed—there aren't any whales in North Carolina unless you start counting the fat redneck women that attend the State Fair—therefore, a new mascot was needed.
Part of the team's relocation deal was that a new arena would be built in Raleigh where they would play their games. This arena was also to be used for N.C. State basketball games and because of this, former NCSU grad and rich gazzillionaire pig farmer Wendall H. Murphy was trying with all of his money and might to have the building named after him. This, we think, is why the mascot ended up being a pig.
As it turned out, the arena was not named after Wendall H. Murphy. Rather, the Royal Bank of Canada (who has hundreds of gazzillions more dollars than Mr. Murphy—though be them Canadian ones) bought the naming rights and the building is now called the RBC Center.
An aside: Mr. Murphy then took his gazzillions of dollars and donated much of it toward the renovation of the nearby Carter-Finley Football Stadium, which now includes a football complex complete with locker rooms, weight rooms, statues of wolves, and offices for the N.C. State athletic director and coach (and I think the coach's office has a revolving door for convenience). That building is now called The Wendall H. Murphy Football Center.
And Stormy is still a pig. Fine, if you know the above story. But among those who don't, nobody has any earthly idea of what an ice hockey team named the Hurricanes could possibly have in common with pigs. Though once, while standing in the beer line at the RBC Center concession stand, I did overhear the following conversation:
Canes Fan #1: "What the hell is Stormy?"|
Canes Fan #2: "A pig."
Canes Fan #1: "A PIG????"
Canes Fan #2: "Yes, he's a pig."
Canes Fan #1: "What the HELL do pigs have in common with hurricanes?"
Canes Fan #2: "The only thing I can think of is that time, after
Hurricane Fran passed through North Carolina in 1996, and the TV
News shows were showing all that footage of the flooding and there
were all those dead pig carcasses floating down the river."
For the first two seasons, while the new arena was being constructed, the Hurricanes played their games eighty miles away at the Greensboro Coliseum. At one of these early games the front office people decided it was time to debut Stormy. The house lights went down and the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey blared from the speakers as the Zamboni drove out to center ice. Unbeknownst to the fans, Stormy was hiding in the ice collection chamber of the Zam and upon cue, was supposed to "be born" and climb out, skate around and do his antics.
That was the plan. Instead, the lights went down, the music played, the Zamboni drove out, and the introduction was made. Then nothing happened. The announcer, thinking Stormy didn't hear his cue, repeated the introduction. Nothing happened. The Zamboni drove back off the ice. The fans wondered what in the hell was going on. It turned out that the guy in the Stormy suit was an epileptic with claustrophobia. There wasn't enough oxygen in the ice chamber of the Zam and this caused him to have a seizure. Honest.
I should note that Stormy received his name by way of a contest. Fans were asked to suggest names and he was almost named "Hamboni," "Shakin' Bacon," or "Piggly Wiggly" but was finally named something that related to Hurricanes. At least they got that part correct. "Stormy" beats the hell out of having a tiger in Buffalo named "Sabre Tooth." And we won't talk about Harvey the Hound (nor his run-in with Oiler coach Craig MacTavish a few years ago).
Pig & The Girl, 1998
The other interesting thing about Stormy, and the inspiration for the picture at the top of this page, was the change in the Stormy costume. The original Stormy costume was the one pictured at the top. His head was so big that the guy inside of the costume had trouble maintaining his balance while on his skates.
Pig & Me, 2003
Also, lots of people—including my wife—looked at the costume and said "Why is he a cow?" I told her "He isn't a cow, he's a pig." "No he's not, he's a cow." "PIG!" "How do you know?" "I just do." "Well, if he's a pig, why did they make him look like a cow?" "He doesn't look like a cow to me, I think he looks like a pig." "That's because you've had too much to drink!"
So after three years, the Stormy costume was changed so that his head would be smaller, he would look more silly and—most importantly—more pig-like. His head was reshaped, his snout became more pink, pronounced and they flattened his nostrils ("How do you keep a pig from smelling? Stop up his nose!"), his ears were made more floppy and his eyes were doubled in size and made blue. He was also made to look much more comical and silly. These changes had the positive effect of making him look much more pig-like and mascot-like.
The B-Man & The Hog Hauler
But to those of us who had grown used to the original costume, the changes made him look like the old Stormy would have looked if he had taken an entire bottle of diet pills and was speeding his ass (his hams?) off. This led to the creation of the picture at the top of the page, which was circulated amongst my friends, who generally found it hilarious. Some of them, much to the consternation of the arena staff and some fans, occasionally could be heard yelling "Stormy's on drugs!" at the hockey games.
Now, all these years later, Stormy remains the same. No more changes. He is now "Stormy the Ice Hog" and now has his own van called "The Ice Hog Hauler." Everyone loves him and most people don't remember that he ever didn't look the way he looks now. But those of us who were at those early games know differently!