I cried at today’s Canes game and I know I’m not alone.

Everyone watching the game today knew what was at stake. The Canes couldn’t clinch a playoff spot, nor could they be eliminated regardless of the outcome. What felt all but certain after beating Montreal was feeling much more up for grabs before playing the Flyers, despite what the percentages said. If everything went right (Canes win, Columbus and Montreal lose), then the playoffs feel all but certain. If it all went wrong, then this entire fanbase would tighten up and the ensuing four games could bring pain.

Photo Credit: @TakeWarning1819

When Slavin’s shot from 180 feet away hit the back of the Philly net, I had to wipe my eyes. I made eye contact with others in 328, and saw others rubbing jersey sleeves across their faces as well. It wasn’t so much because of this game (again, no spot is clinched), but because of what today’s game meant.

Today, the Canes brought a strong effort to the ice in order to make up for two painful losses this week. This team bounced back from an early one-goal deficit and a late-game push from Philadelphia to lock down a 5-2 win. They showed determination, and the crowd brought intensity and volume for days.

The atmosphere inside the building matched the weather outside today. It was warm, bright, happy, and both settings hosted an intangible “better things are around the corner.” Spring is here, flowers are blooming, trees are having all kinds of hot, nasty sex in the air, and for the first time in a decade, playoff hockey looks to make a return to Raleigh.

Those tears that formed today weren’t because of today, but because of what we as fans have seen in the last decade. A huge disclaimer that yes, I know sports fandom pales in comparison to real-life hardships like health, loss, and personal struggles. But in the arena of fandom, we’ve had it pretty rough as Canes fans since 2009.

Today’s tears were for years like 2010-11 when the Canes collapsed down the stretch. They were for all the years where we pined for a team good enough to even think that being in contention on game 82 was a pipe dream. They were for making a f***ing save. They were for seeing a roster completely rebuilt over the past couple years. They were for seeing a team and an organization act a little different and a fanbase embrace it.

There was a joy in the building today that went beyond a win. It felt like an entire fanbase buying into the notion that postseason hockey is far more likely than not. It’s hard to believe that the last home game of the (regular) season isn’t the last time we’ll be in those seats until the fall.

Today’s game was amazing, and I can’t wait for Thursday. Like we always say on the podcast and our social posts, our tailgates are open to everyone. Please come join us in the east lot grass (near the sign on Wade Avenue). We’ll have New Belgium beer and pizza from Papa Murphy’s. Bring anything you want, and come join the crowd!