RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Fans arrived at Carter-Finley Stadium early but still had to wait for hours in traffic.
Organizers knew traffic was going to be a problem. That's why they spent days urging fans to arrive early to ensure they got into the game.
Most fans heeded those warnings but they were still forced to wait hours, and in some cases abandon their cars and walk to the stadium.
"The traffic coming over here--we've been to Stanley Cup, World Series, every outdoor game the caps have been in--this is by far the worst event I've ever been to in my life," Capitals fan John Covey said.
Gates to the parking lots opened at 2 p.m. but lines formed even before that.
"They told us to come early; we got in the car around 1 p.m. and we've just been sitting here," Braden Taylor said.
"We've definitely looked at the traffic situation," said NHL Chief Content Officer and Head of Events, Steve Mayer. "I have to admit, one of the reasons why I'm saying loud and clear-come early."
To encourage hours of early arrivals before the puck drops at 8 p.m., gates open for pregame tailgating and Fan Fest action from 2 p.m.-7:30 p.m. at PNC Arena's East Parking Lot.
Here's a look at what traffic looked like around 2 p.m. on Edwards Mill Road near Carter-Finley Stadium:
Lovelytheband will give a concert at 4:00 p.m. and Mayer said both teams will arrive at 5:15 p.m.
"The teams have really bought into coming to the stadium in a very unique way," Mayer said. "Pregame here because it's going to be a party."
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The game is a fusion inspired by the electrifying college game day environment while celebrating the Canes' 25th anniversary.
"We'll be proud to show off NC State as well as Carolina Hurricane hockey," Mayer said. "This is a global game that is televised around the world."
In a first for an NHL game, they will share the field with North Carolina State students. NC State's Joint ROTC will perform and present colors for the National Anthem played by NCSU's Marching Band, "The Power Sound Of The South."
WATCH PREGAME SHOW LIVE | ABC11 is the sponsored station for the event and you can watch pre-game live from 7p-8p on our 24/7 live stream and mobile apps.
Ripken, "The Bat Dog" who has amassed hundreds of thousands of fans retrieving bats for the Durham Bulls and going on the field for NC State Football games will be a headliner in the pregame ceremony leading the puck drop.
Erik Cole, Mike Commodore and Chad LaRose from the 2006 Stanley Cup Championship team will sound the Storm Siren.
During First Intermission, Multi-Platinum Country Music Entertainer Jake Owen will headline the concert.