Thanks everyone for the great advice.... really looking forward to the game and talking hockey some hockey with the folks in Raleigh.
Now that I am at my computer and not typing on an Ipad I figured I would also share my 2002 experience as it was one of my most memorable NHL experiences and that is saying a lot as I have had many.
It was game 2 in Carolina, on a whim I called down to Carolina to get ticket information and found out the price and that they had tickets available. In Canada it was a long weekend so I called up my dad and asked the old man if he wanted to go on a road trip to see our beloved Maple Leafs play in the ECF. He thought it was crazy to drive 18 hours for a hockey game but he was up for the adventure. Called back to buy our tickets and in the 5-10 minutes since I had last called, the ticket office apparently put a sales restriction on tickets being sold to anyone with Canadian address. In talking to the very nice lady at the ticket office she explained to me that there had been such an overwhelming demand from Leaf fans wanting to make the trip they decided minutes before my call to prevent ticket sales to Canadian fans so as to not have a Leaf home game in their own building. I asked about game day sales and she said that yes we could make the trip and buy our tickets at the box office and she figured I would have no problem getting tickets as and I quote "we never sell out"
So my father and I had a great road trip down. We stopped for a night in Washington DC and checked out some of the great monuments and museums, paid our respects in Arlington, and continued down to Raleigh. We arrive at the arena and are met with the awesome atmosphere of tailgating at a hockey game. Something new to us, as at the time our archaic liquor laws in Ontario prevented tailgating. It was quite the party. A fantastic mixture of Leaf fans and Canes fans engaged in spontaneous games of road hockey, drinking beer, grilling and having fun.
We head over to the box office and the line is huge, apparently a lot of other Leaf fans had the same idea. We get in line and we are next, no exaggeration, this literally happened, I go up to the counter and the lady says sorry we just sold the last tickets to the group in front of you. I was devastated. She went on to explain to me that they have never sold this many tickets to a hockey game before and they are looking to see if they can add standing room tickets. They had to wait for the fire marshal approval and suggested I remain in line with the hopes that more tickets will be made available.
My father went outside for some fresh air while I waited in line. About 20 minutes later he peaks his head in the door and tells me to come out side, I was reluctant as I did not want to give up my first in line spot but figured there had to be a reason. While he was outside he over heard some Season Ticket folks picking up their tickets from the box office talking about if they should find someone now who wanted to buy their tickets or come back latter. My dad instantly said to them if you have tickets you want to sell my son and I will buy them. I had the money in my pocket so he called me out of line. I come out and I remember this clear as day, It stands out in my memory because in Toronto if you cant get tickets at the box office you will be paying at times hundreds of dollars over face value buying them in a secondary market. My dad asks the very kind couple how much they want for the tickets, their response was a hesitant, "we are hoping to get at least face value". Instantly my dad and I said sold. The conversation was overheard by another group looking to buy tickets and quickly they threw in they would pay $100 over face, but as they were saying that my dad and I already had the tickets in hand and cash was being exchanged. We did give them an extra $50 and told them to please have dinner on us and thanked them so much for their help. We also invited them for a drink but they declined as they had to head out.
Excited we walked around the arena and took in the outdoor festivities, beer tent, BBQ vendors, music, it was a fantastic party experience that we had never seen at an NHL game before. We were talking to a few of the folks working there and they were telling us they were overwhelmed by the number of people that game down from the Toronto area and there was no way they would get all of them in the arena, so they had begun pulling TV's out of the various bars and locations inside the arena to set them up outside in the tented areas so the fans that did not have tickets could still see the game albeit from TV's outside of the venue. What incredible hospitality on the part of the Canes organization to be sure these fans could still be apart of the experience after driving so far. Every Canes fan we encountered were nothing but gracious and welcoming. Many very curious on our travels down and what we thought.
Game time we head into the building and find our seats..... to our excitement we find that our seats are center ice lower level and we are close to the fans we saw on TV always dressed as dumb and dumber. The game was fantastic and if I recall correctly went to overtime with a Canes win. But what a memorable trip.
I realize that that level of excitement may not be as intense for a non ECF playoff game but my kids have been enjoying the "Surge". When Don Cherry, a man who I admire, came out and called the players jerks. My boys and I realized he has lost touch. This is the greatest game in the world and if these professional athletes are still having fun at this level what better message to send to the kids playing this fantastic game. There is nothing wrong with celebrating your victory with your fans and I think it is awesome that they started this new tradition. So awesome that my family and I are going to make a side trip to see a game with the hopes of witnessing first hand a "surge" and we will have fun with the rest of the hockey fans in the crowd celebrating their victory and the game of hockey.
I appreciate the advice and welcome any more tips you may have. I love the fact that the game I fell in love with has spread beyond its traditional boundaries and is being enjoyed by fans in non traditional hockey locations. My boys have experienced NHL hockey in both Sunrise FLA, and Tampa FLA, now looking forward to them experiencing hockey in Raleigh.
As this is a side trip from an already very expensive trip to Walt Disney World, I am looking to buy just the least expensive tickets I can find. Even nose bleeds if necessary. I had read somewhere in the past that they will often let fans in the upper levels move down to unclaimed lower level seats if they wish. Do they still/have they ever allowed this?