Raleigh, N.C. — For fans of the Carolina Hurricanes waiting for a start to the hockey season, Sunday's Caniac Carnival was a chance to celebrate their sport.
The carnival, in its 14th year, usually serves as a signal that the season is about to begin. But the National Hockey League has already canceled the preseason, and regular-season games, slated to begin Oct. 11, are in jeopardy as owners and players stand off over the next collective bargaining agreement.
"The possibility of that not happening is just real disappointment. I hope they can get an agreement worked out," said fan Sue Hardee.
Sunday marked Kennedy Cross's sixth time at the Caniac Carnival. "It's really fun," she said.
But something was missing. Players, who usually draw long lines for autographs and pictures, were absent this year, a result of the lockout.
Organizers tried to blunt that disappointment by opening the floor of PNC Arena to fans, allowing visitors the perspective from a player's point of view. Families hung out and took pictures on the team bench. They played floor hockey and spent time in the penalty box.
"They're usually in the stands, so being able to be down here and see the Jumbotron up above and all the red seats out there, I think it's great," said Matt Kuppinen.
"I'm having great fun," Kuppinen's 3-year-old son echoed.
Sunday's turnout signaled the support the Hurricanes can claim even with their season in the balance.
"I'm still a Caniac if there's no hockey," Hardee said.
This is the fourth time in 20 years that the league and players have disagreed about revenue sharing. The NHL canceled the entire 2004-05 season because of a lockout that eventually led to the collective bargaining agreement that expired this month.