Sports

Boston Bruins fans live among us, sometimes in the same household

As they walked across the parking lot toward PNC Arena, Chrissy and Rod Rodriguez of Youngsville each made it clear from their jerseys which team they were pulling for in Tuesday night’s NHL Eastern Conference finals game.

It wasn’t the same team.

Chrissy was there for the Carolina Hurricanes, the name of their young star Sebastian Aho on her back, while Rod, a native of Worcester, Mass., wore the jersey of Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.

“It’s been tough in our house these last few days,” she said. “I shut the TV off on him the other day,” referring to Sunday, when the Bruins jumped out to a 6-0 lead in Game 2 of the series in Boston. Game 4 takes place Thursday at PNC Arena, with the Canes down 3-0 and facing elimination.

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Though not always to this degree, Hurricanes fans are accustomed to living among supporters of the other team, much like Wolfpack and Tar Heel fans do. People have been pouring into the Triangle from other parts of the country for decades now, and they bring with them allegiances to faraway sports teams that were forged in childhood and hardened through family ties.

Even on a weeknight during the regular season, fans from Buffalo, Pittsburgh, New York or Detroit can show up at PNC Arena in bunches, then drive home to North Raleigh, Cary or Holly Springs when the game is over.

These transplants aren’t hostile to the Hurricanes; in fact, most consider themselves fans for any game not involving their team from back home.

“I love the Canes,” said Tyler Kromenhoek of Holly Springs, who wore a jersey for Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask to Tuesday’s game. “They’re my second favorite team.”

From Boston to North Carolina

Kromenhoek was only 5 when he moved to the Triangle, but his fidelity to Boston sports teams, reinforced by his parents, was set. Now 22, he’ll be sharing an apartment at East Carolina University in the fall with Cam Gross, who wore a Teuvo Teravinen jersey as the two sat in the parking lot before the game.

It was not unusual to see Bruins and Canes fans mixed together like this. Tove Esser, “a diehard Bruins fan” who moved to Jacksonville from Massachusetts four years ago to be close to her son Michael, a Marine, came to the game with her daughter-in-law Christina Esser, who wore a Canes jersey. Michael bought the tickets as Mother’s Day gifts, confident that the two most important women in his life would get along just fine despite pulling for different teams.

“We’ll see how this goes at the end of the night,” Tove joked before the game.

“Remember, I’m driving,” Christina replied.

Janet Hardy moved to Raleigh from Boston more than 20 years ago and quickly took to the Canes without giving up her faithfulness to the Bruins. Three years ago, she had a tailor cut Canes and Bruins jerseys in half, down the middle, and sew them together, to reflect her dual allegiances (she gave the other split jersey to her son-in-law, Andrew Watt of Franklinton, who wore his to Tuesday’s game, too).

Asked who she was ultimately rooting for Tuesday, Hardy replied: “I don’t have to choose. It’s a win-win situation.”

‘All in good fun’

Rod and Chrissy Rodriguez knew what they were getting into when they met at a Starbucks in Cary. He was wearing a Red Sox jacket; she, a native of Elmira, N.Y., was a big Yankees fan.

“I made some comment about the Red Sox,” she said, and the ice was broken.

Rod had come to North Carolina when he joined the Army in 1996. Chrissy came down that same year to go to ECU. When she planned their wedding last fall, she let him choose the music for their entrance to the reception: Kernkraft 400 by Zombie Nation, the techno tune played after every Bruins goal at TD Garden.

“It keeps a little spice in our relationship,” he said of their good-natured sports rivalries.

Under her Aho jersey Tuesday, Chrissy wore a new T-shirt that read “In Rod We Trust,” a reference to Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour and, in her case, her husband.

Of course, not everyone walking around in Bruins gear this week lives here. Mike Fitzmaurice of Lexington, Mass., was in town for a wedding and knew to bring a Bruins T-shirt that he wore to watch Sunday’s game at the Carolina Ale House on Glenwood Avenue, where he was badly outnumbered. It was his first visit to Raleigh.

“I love it. Great city. Everybody’s friendly,” Fitzmaurice said. “There’s been a little cackling here and there. Nothing serious. All in good fun, as far as I’m concerned.”

Bruins at Hurricanes

Game 4, Eastern Conference finals

When: 8 p.m., Thursday

Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh

TV: NBCSN

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 20 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.
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