A Loss of Words: The Disgruntled Predators Fans

By: Miranda Martin

After Thursday night’s 7-4 loss against the Phoenix Coyotes, many fans were left with no words to describe their state.

The Coyotes, who had lost 7 games in a row prior to the game in Nashville, were looking from the opening faceoff for a momentum-shifting goal. And by 3 minutes and 50 seconds into the game, they’d found three. Then, progressively, Phoenix found a 4-0 lead, followed by a 5-0 lead just 8:26 into the first period. Over 17,000 spectators and countless remote spectators were left befuddled and a little shell-shocked from the crazy beginning of the game.

Less than 30 seconds after the fifth Phoenix goal, Nashville finally found their lucky bounce with a goal David Legwand, immediately lifting the spirits of the sold out crowd. Rich Clune would tally exactly 30 seconds later to make the Predators deficit just three goals with more than 50 minutes remaining in the game. Radim Vrbata would shift the momentum back to the Coyotes with just over four minutes remaining in the shift. Just 32 seconds later, Gabriel Bourque tipped in another tally, and with forty minutes still to play in the game, the Preds were only down by three goals.

After such an eventful first period, there were high expectations for a second period. Pekka Rinne found himself back in the net after his 17-minute break, and the Preds were looking to maybe start the game anew. Unfortunately, this definitely wasn’t the case. Less than three minutes into the second, Antoine Vermette scores to give the Coyotes a overwhelming 7-3 lead.

And the defeat showed.

While Pekka eventually found his “zone” and made some very important and key saves, the rest of the team had completely lost their mojo. Though the team had 11 shots on goal that period (contrary to 9 for the Coyotes), the team seemed completely lost. That’s when some fans decided to chime in with their frustrations, too.

Much to the surprise of many (and the dismay of some), a decent amount of disgruntled Preds fans let out a loud chorus of boos after a very uneventful and lackluster second period power play. It is a truly rare occasion at Bridgestone Arena that the team gets a negative response, and in a decade of being a fan myself, I’ve never heard a negative response that loud that wasn’t directed at the opponents or officials. It was the second of what would be three power plays of the period, and once again, the Preds found themselves cycling around the point, getting only one shot on what could have been a game-changing power play. It looked more like the 12.5% road power play than the high-ranked home PP of 28.3% (which dropped to 26% after going 0-for-4 this game.) Regrettably, the Preds didn’t get the message initially, performing even worse on the third power play of the period, and it eventually led to a smaller yet still prevalent amount of boos as the period ended.

During the intermission and well after the crowd quieted down, it became the talk of several fans in the arena as well as social media as to whether or not those select fans should have booed their beloved team. The opinions varied from “well deserved” to “deal with the loss or go home; don’t boo.” The fact is that many fans are just as discouraged as the team, and voicing the disappointment to the internet or to the peers within hearing distance can sometimes only go so far. Jeering for a couple moments toward a team who flubbed on a golden opportunity to regain a chance at winning can easily be warranted. This same team has scored 4 goals with more than half the game left before. Hell, they scored 4 goals in 3:04 against Columbus just Saturday night, and it was against a goaltender who had been named an NHL star just the week prior.

But the sounds of boos near an intermission can come with a potential for gratification. When the players are going into the room, the players can have that friendly reminder that these fans do, in fact, pay their paychecks, and they should at least give them something to cheer about. And, for the most part, it somewhat worked. With ten minutes left, Shea Weber blasted a puck past LaBarbera, making the deficit 3 again with 10 minutes left. Brandon Yip tried to have a scrap with Rotislav Klesla to help with the momentum a bit. After the game, defenseman Jonathon Blum recognized that if the team could have stayed focused in the second period that the game was easily winnable. Those boos could have easily been a wake-up call.

This would be a completely different story if it had been a one-time frustration, but it’s not. This team is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when it comes to which team shows up to play—the home team or the road team. Thursday night, the road team showed up at home, and 17,000 fans couldn’t change the channel or pause the DVR to cool off for a few minutes. If this team was comfortably sitting in first place of the division and played one poor game, then no, a shower of boos wouldn’t be warranted. But this team is barely at .500 at 14-14-6 with the loss. It was a temporary cacophony of dissatisfaction for a team that could have had potential.

Beyond the jeers, it was notable to see the reactions of the majority of fans after the early 4-0 deficit. They didn’t boo when Pekka was pulled—in fact, they cheered to welcome in Mason. They didn’t boo when Mason let in yet another goal. There was hope at that time. A vast majority of fans also stayed well into the third period instead of taking the chance to beat the traffic, which, this time just a few years ago, would have probably been a different story. It wasn’t until there were just a few minutes left in the game that people began to leave, which is normal in any building if there is a convincing deficit, win or lose. Booing didn’t make them worse fans. They sat there and suffered the loss with their team, which is what is expected of a good fan base.

Whether you attended the game and chose to boo or not, there’s no denying that the fans had something to be frustrated about, but it shouldn’t and likely won’t affect the love of their team. Voicing that frustration doesn’t warrant if you’re a bad fan or not. Bad fans don’t stick around to see the team later in the season. Bad fans refuse to get season tickets because they “don’t want to pay to watch them lose.” If you go to a comedy club and a really bad comic performs, people have a tendency to boo. It doesn’t make them less of a comedy lover—they were just ready for the next act. Well, maybe to some fans who booed, this game felt like a really bad, off-the-popsicle-stick joke.

The next home game is Tuesday, April 4th, against Colorado. The Avs had the previous befuddling game against the Preds this season when the teams saw 7 goals in one period during the Preds 6-5 loss. Hopefully, the fans will return and the Preds will see their first-ever 30th consecutive sellout–a monumental milestone for the franchise and the fans. And, this time, hopefully the Preds will merit more cheers and need no jeers.

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