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Carolina Hurricanes Update Smash-Hit 'Bunch of Jerks' T-shirts After Latest 'Front Running' Criticism

May 14, 2019 | Joseph Myers

When long-suffering sports teams and their fan bases come to enjoy decent, even amazing, results, many people affiliated with the given pastime tend to take joy in their rejuvenation. The term “many people,” though, does not include Don Cherry, the 85-year-old grump, er, National Hockey League analyst, who three months ago called the Carolina Hurricanes a “bunch of jerks” for their victory celebrations. The Hurricanes responded with a T-shirt, co-opting the nickname and brilliantly turning a micro-moment into an enduring rallying cry (and marketing gold).

Not content with going after the roster members, Cherry is targeting the team’s supporters, dubbing them “front-running fans” for packing the Hurricanes’ arena as the team continues its unlikely playoff run. That critique led Carolina’s marketing brass to modify the original T-shirt by adding the words “front running,” and releasing it to fans.

Simply put, Cherry is a pest. The Hurricanes and their zealots have every reason to celebrate, as this year’s playoff run has taken the Raleigh-based club to the Eastern Conference Finals, marking the franchise’s first postseason berth since 2009. Despite that, Cherry, on Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, gave a rambling rebuke of ticket purchasers, applying the aforementioned term to them to summarize their allegiance.

Yes, the Hurricanes, no matter how well they performed in the regular season, struggled to draw the masses to PNC Arena, filling it to only 76.7 percent capacity, but the playoffs are a whole different beast. Playoff teams typically attract more enthusiasts, because the stakes in a seven-game series are much higher than those of, say, a single contest. In other words, fans of all teams tend to flock to arenas when Cup runs commence, and nobody should be scolding anybody with an attachment to the Hurricanes for hopping on the bandwagon.

Obviously, the North Carolina organization loves the improved results, because they are able to sell more of everything, including the “bunch of jerks” T-shirt that Cherry inspired by being the curmudgeon that he is. The Hurricanes have made the nation take notice, dumping the defending Cup titlists, the Washington Capitals, in the first round and sweeping the upstart New York Islanders next. That excitement for a team that, with all due respect, lacks a true superstar has resulted in the stadium’s hitting 102.2 percent capacity for five playoff matchups. Now that the Hurricanes have inched more closely to the organization’s second Stanley Cup title, with the Boston Bruins standing in their way of a Finals trip, merch sales would likely have skyrocketed anyway. Thanks to Cherry, they might become a Category 5 equivalent of promotional sustainability.

Quick to pounce on the announcer’s latest criticism, the higher-ups took to Twitter on Sunday to reveal the updated garment, which inserts “front-running” into the “bunch of jerks” script and fully unifies the fans with the Hurricanes as hockey aficionados who are certain to irk Cherry. One would think that the guy would understand how teams, after having taken developmental lumps, would want to maximize their anticipated success and how the fan base would also want to revel, but Cherry does not see matters that way. Far too much of a traditionalist, he is likely too upset that a Canadian team will not win the Cup for the 26th straight year.

Regardless of his motivation, it is easy to laud the Hurricanes for seizing more micro-moment bliss. The “bunch of jerks” moniker has served them well, so any chance to add to its promotional expanse is a genius move. Going forward, we back the underdogs to down the Bruins and advance to the Finals because we simply cannot stomach the thought of having the Beantown bunch play for the championship and since we really want to see just how much ire Cherry can produce. Could you imagine the promotional possibilities if the Hurricanes were to win it all? They might have to include Cherry in their parade as a sign of gratitude if so.

He’d probably accept the invitation, just to dub them a “bunch of jerks” yet again.

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