by Ron Spence

You’ve gotta love those folks from the Carolinas.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott was the guy who busted superstar swimmer Michael Phelps when he was smoking the bad bud.

Later he was asked to give a speech at the local Rotary Club and showed up wearing a bulletproof vest.

He was afraid of “pot shots,” he quipped.

na-av925_lott_g_20090213182219courtesy of

The Carolina Hurricanes play in North Carolina. They’ve got some great hockey fans in the Raleigh area.

Deborah Halaby is the ulitimate Erik Cole fan and chose Hurricanes season tickets over heating her house.
What was it that she liked about Cole?
“The arrogance — his whole stance,” Halaby told Luke DeCock of the News & Observer. “Something just clicked. Every time I saw him, it was just Michael. When Erik got hurt and they’d show him on the Jumbotron, my seatmates would look over at me and I’d be crying.”
Michael was her son who had committed suicide in 1992 – at 20 years of age.
Deborah arranged to play blackjack with Cole at the Hurricanes’ charity casino night. She sent him a get-well card when he broke his neck in 2006.And she made her way to the RBC Center in sickness and in health.
Then the second worst day in her life tripped her up.

Her cell phone and office phone rang simultaneously, just as her boss walked in with the bad news….

“My skin had goosebumps,” Halaby says. “I went ballistic. I never had words like that come out of my mouth. Really bad words.”
Halaby later received a phone call from Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford, who was touched by her story, and wanted to explain why he had traded Cole.
“From the Hurricanes’ perspective,” DeCock wrote, “the Cole trade made sense in every way. He was in the final year of his contract, with no guarantee the Canes would be able to re-sign him. They were dealing from strength (a surplus of scoring forwards) to address a weakness (a paucity of decent defensemen). An older player was exchanged for a younger one. That logic was, and remains, unassailable. That Cole loved playing for the Hurricanes and living in the Triangle and ranked among the team’s most popular players was merely collateral damage from a trade that was otherwise a slam dunk.”
“I still love the hockey team,” she said at the time, “but I think Jim Rutherford has made a big mistake. I can’t support that. I may be one out of thousands, but that’s just who I am.”
Deborah didn’t renew her season’s ticket, took down all of her Canes memorabilia from her office walls (She is an office manager at an auto supply store.), leaving up only her Cole pieces.
She also packed away her No. 26 jersey, and repaired the furnace and cranked up the heat.

“I’m so thrilled!” Halaby gushed on wednesday. “You wouldn’t believe it! I just hope he stays this time.”

Cole had been traded back to the Hurricanes by the Oilers.

“The first thing I said was, ‘Oh my gosh, what box is it in?’ ”

She bought a ticket for yesterday’s game against Calgary – in her old Section 117.

And Carolina won the game 6-1 and Eric scored a goal



Joyce Johnston is 81-years-old and called the Dancin’ Granny in Raleigh. During the game her song [Flo Rida’s “Low”] comes on the arena’s speakers and the jumbotron brightens up with her gyrations.

“Everyone in the arena knows it’s her song and looks at the JumboTron,” Pete Soto – 0f the scoreboard crew – told Matt Ehlers. “The song is a touch naughty; it’s about a young woman dancing seductively in a club, and was chosen because it’s the most opposite of what you think a Granny would dance to.”

She became a star at her very first game in 2000. When her daughter went to the concession and returned, she saw her mother dancing on the JumboTron.

“It’s really not a dance,” Johnston said of her first time on screen. “I just got up. I was happy, you know. They thought I was dancing.”

She admits to liking the attention: “I must, or I wouldn’t keep putting on, would I?”

“She told me that now that she’s older,” Joyce’s daughter said, “she can get away with more things. She can flirt with the young guys and get by with it.”

Mother and daughter try to arrive at the arena about an hour early so Granny can mingle with the fans. Johnston stands on the concourse, posing for photos, hugging children and handing out Dancin’ Granny trading cards.


courtesy of the News & Observer

“She’s so funny,” says Mallory Holtz, 15, who stopped to have her photo taken with Johnston. “It’s so cool that she’s not afraid to get up and dance in front of everybody.”

“As soon as you pull in,” Johnson says, “before you even get out of the car, there’s so much in the air. You know you’re going to have a good time. They’re all hollering, the little kids and everything. You can’t help but be excited.”

Just like at GM Place in Vancouver.


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