Raleigh scores with international buzz over All-Star Game

The 2011 NHL All-Star Game is over, and the real winner might not have even been on Team Staal or Team Lidstrom.

Raleigh is getting accolades from all over the world for the way it handled the weekend's activities surrounding the All-Star Game.

"It's just been beyond anything we could have imagined," Scott Dupree, vice president for sports marketing at the Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Monday.

A writer from Sports Illustrated called Raleigh the biggest star and the biggest winner of the weekend. Pierre McGuire, hockey analyst for Canadian sports network TSN, also praised the region.

"I've been going to All-Star games since 1990. This is the best All-Star Weekend I've ever attended," McGuire told millions of Canadian viewers. "A big reason why, not just because of the players on both teams, not just because of the NHL and their great ideas, is because of the people of North Carolina (and) the city of Raleigh."

About 400 to 500 journalists covered the game, and Dupree, who was co-chairman of the local organizing committee for the event, said he had heard people repeatedly compliment Raleigh's hospitality.

"It's going to enhance and strengthen Raleigh's reputation in general as a great sports or meeting destination and, in particular, Raleigh's reputation as a great sports city," he said.

Carolina Hurricanes President and General Manager Jim Rutherford thanked area fans for creating the atmosphere that led to a successful weekend.

"The people of the Triangle ... were gracious and welcoming hosts for each and every one of our visitors from around the world," Rutherford said in a statement. "Everyone came together to make All-Star Weekend what it was, and we've never been more proud to call North Carolina home."

Although the financial impact of the All-Star Game won't be totaled for a few weeks, area officials said it likely will top $10 million.

The Eye store at the RBC Center saw a tenfold increase in its weekend sales, selling out all 2,000 of its All-Star jerseys at $225 each.

Alex Amra, co-owner of the Tobacco Road Sports Cafe in Raleigh's Glenwood South neighborhood, said the restaurant's weekend sales were double a normal January weekend.

"We almost got a March Madness weekend," Amra said, noting the NCAA basketball tournament traditionally packs in customers.

He also was giddy about a commentator mentioning the restaurant by name during the All-Star Game.

"It's really humbling, and it's fun. We were like little kids in a candy store. It's pretty cool," he said.

Amra said the pleasant weather over the weekend probably added to the warm reception out-of-town visitors received, and he predicted it could convince hockey fans to move to the Triangle.

"I don't know if (WRAL Chief Meteorologist) Greg Fishel had anything to do with it, but thanks," he said.

Reporter: Erin Hartness