No. 28: Carolina Hurricanes

Ultimate Standings 2012

Updated: September 7, 2012, 12:07 PM ET
By Max Klinger | ESPN The Magazine

Last year's rank: 22
Title track: 23
Ownership: 46
Coaching: 50
Players: 51
Fan relations: 21
Affordability: 22
Stadium experience: 43
Bang for the buck: 42

When this poll was conducted in May, the Canes were still ranked 23rd in all of professional sports in our title track category ... and they had just missed their third consecutive playoffs. Since then owner Peter Karmanos has proved his willingness to get them back on track by allowing GM Jim Rutherford to sign Jordan Staal to a 10-year, $60 million contract (uniting two of the Staal brothers), re-up Jeff Skinner with a six-year deal and poach Alexander Semin from division-rival Washington with a one-year, $7 million contract. But just because payroll has gone up doesn't mean fan costs have followed. The Canes didn't raise prices a cent this year and remain one of the most affordable teams to be a fan of in the league. They also remain one of the most plugged-in teams in hockey when it comes to their community, with events like the annual Caniac Carnival, which included a free preseason game for all fans. The new season is shaping up to be a good year for the Canes, and the exclamation points have been flying on the blog Canes Country. As Limelon sums it up: "I haven't been this excited for this team since the '09 playoffs."