RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Fans packed the PNC Arena parking lot Monday tailgating ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes game, which turned out to be a win.

For many, it was the first time doing so in person since the pandemic.

“Absolutely stoked it’s been a long time coming. It’s been a tough year for everyone so we’re very happy to be out here this is awesome,” said Andrew Moghaddam.

One fan who is partially blind flew in all the way from Finland to share the moment. She said he was thankful for North Carolina’s eased gathering restrictions for bringing her together with the welcoming Hurricanes fans community.

“No two skaters sound the same so I can recognize the guys on the ice by the way they sound. It doesn’t necessarily feel like COVID sports so I’m so thankful and we get to party together,” said Laurel Wheeler.

The Hurricanes hosted 12,000 people Monday. While they could’ve hosted nearly 19,000, they have to abide by current NHL protocols.

Large crowds were seen gathering close together outside and even visiting with people at different tailgating stations while not wearing masks. Some fans were vaccinated and some chose not to disclose.

However, all fans were in agreement that they were happy to be there.

“It’s great. It’s been so long, this is life the way we want it to be, you know, so it’s really good,” said Grant Young.

Fans did still have to wear a face mask inside the arena due to NHL protocols.