During the regular season, the Carolina Hurricanes were playing high-tempo hockey and surpassing expectations for the most part. A part of their all-in mentality was their elaborate post-match celebrations after a win, known as the ‘Storm Surge’. But one outspoken pundit, Don Cherry, took great offence to Carolina’s antics after a win, labelling them all “a bunch of jerks,” as shown by The Washington Post.

That quote came on 17 February, after the Canes defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 and Dougie Hamilton led the crowd with a Viking clap. Then, following a skirmish for the last wild card places in the Eastern Conference, the Hurricanes snapped the NHL’s longest postseason drought, per ESPN, on 5 April, with many assuming that the post-win extravaganzas would continue if they ever won any games.

The Carolina Hurricanes have had one of the more impressive opening series in these playoffs. They could be challenging for the Cup soon, and they may have Don Cherry’s comments to thank.

Using Cherry as inspiration

When trying to motivate your team, there are very few things that you can draw from that are as powerful as adversity. Giving the team an enemy and emphasising their underdog stance can propel them to success that others wouldn’t foresee simply due to them being the underdogs. That is exactly what the Hurricanes have done.

Cherry’s “bunch of jerks” line has become a rallying call among Canes fans and players, with the club using the now infamous ramble on many different forms of apparel for fans to don on gameday, as well as it being spelled out with shirts on arena seats, according to Deadspin.

While the elaborate celebrations have cooled in the playoffs, there’s no doubt that the team’s use of Cherry’s words is helping to fuel their underdog tale. Coming up against reigning Stanley Cup champions the Washington Capitals in the first round certainly stacked the odds against them, with few experts at USA Today foreseeing a Canes triumph.

After seven gruelling games which included superstar rookie Andrei Svechnikov being knocked out by legend Alex Ovechkin, the Carolina Hurricanes defied the odds to take the series and move onto the next round. They weren’t the only underdogs to do so, with the Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Islanders, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, and Colorado Avalanche all slipping to the second round to defy the natural order of things.

Forcing Game 7 after a goal was controversially overturned, and going on to win that Game 7, spurred the Hurricanes to defeat the conquers of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Islanders, with a resounding 4-0 series win. While the Hurricanes have been very muted following their victories, they still have that bite-back spirit, as shown by Dougie Hamilton’s return head pat on Isles centre Brock Nelson at the end of the sweep.

Now, they’re into the Eastern Conference Finals, the first team to make it to the stage, and while they’re not favourites to win the Cup, they’re certainly up there. As of 6 May, Betway had the Canes at 13/4 to win the Stanley Cup, only behind the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks who, at the time of writing, hadn’t sealed their place in the next round.

To keep the good times rolling, the Hurricanes have continued to draw inspiration from Don Cherry, including one of his latest Canes rants.

Cherry just can’t stop boosting the Canes

With Carolina Hurricanes into the penultimate round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Don Cherry didn’t apologise for the words that now ring around the PNC Arena, clarifying that the team knows that their ‘Storm Surge’ celebrations are wrong, citing their lack of post-win celebrating in the playoffs. He goes on to say: “now they’re winning, [are] front-running fans,” as relayed by News Observer on May.

The Hurricanes have been quick to react to Cherry’s latest comments, creating revamped shirts. When before they shirts simply read ‘Bunch of Jerks’, The Comeback shows that the shirts now have an inserted scribble to make them read ‘Bunch of Front Running Jerks’.

While Carolina continues their long wait to find out who their conference finals opponents are, the fan base has been getting a huge kick out of the club and players battling back against the outspoken commentator. Unless Cherry wants the Canes to go all the way, he may want to word his sentences more democratically over the coming weeks.