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Raleigh 'Hails' Stanley Cup Champions

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The Carolina Hurricanes hit downtown Raleigh for one more celebration on Wednesday.

The "Hail To Our Champions" parade began at noon on Hillsborough Street from St. Mary's Street to Salisbury Street, ending with a celebration on stage near the state Capitol.

"The 'Canes are great neighbors to us all, and now, they have contributed this most coveted of professional sports championships to our city," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said in a statement released Wednesday morning. "We owe them a rousing round of applause."

Meeker personally offer his congratulations during the ceremony.

Less than a day after beating the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals on Monday, the Hurricanes took a victory lap around the RBC Center through a cheering crowd of thousands of fans.

Assistant captain Glen Wesley held the silver Stanley Cup aloft as children in his truck pitched foam pucks into the crowd like they were medallions tossed from a Mardi Gras float.

The North Carolina General Assembly also honored the team during a special joint session on Wednesday.

"We all feel a great deal of pride at what this organization has accomplished," said Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, D-Cumberland. "Thank you for what you've done for us. Thank you for what you've done for yourself. You'll have this for the rest of your life and so will we."

Hurricanes players and coach Peter Laviolette came into the House chamber to raucous applause following their second victory parade in as many days. Defenseman Bret Hedican got the biggest cheers -- and a lot of camera flashes -- when he raised the Stanley Cup over his head and placed it on the House dais.

"Seeing that Cup going over our shoulders, it still brings chills to all of us," coach Peter Laviolette said on behalf of the team. "It is a pleasure to be in here."

Even legislators who didn't know the difference between a hat trick and an icing penalty a decade ago said they appreciated the importance of the Hurricanes' championship.

"Sunny North Carolina is now hockey country," said Sen. Vernon Malone, D-Wake. "Welcome to the sunny South. We aren't so hot that we're going to melt the ice. We're glad you're here. You've meant a lot for us and strangely enough, I've learned a little bit."

On Tuesday, Gov. Mike Easley declared June 20 "Carolina Hurricanes Day" statewide and asked fans to wear red, white and black in honor of the only one of North Carolina's three major league teams to win a championship.

This year's Stanley Cup was the team's second trip to the finals since the former Hartford Whalers moved south in 1997. But unlike a five-game loss to Detroit four years ago, the Hurricanes took the final step by holding off a determined Oilers squad in front of a rowdy home crowd Monday night to end an intense and dramatic series.

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