A Rivalry Revisited: Predators vs. Red Wings
By: Miranda Martin
It’s the most wonderful game of the year.
Since the beginning of the Nashville Predators franchise, there has always been something special about the rivalry between the Nashville Predators and the Detroit Red Wings. The Preds have always seemed to be the little brother of the Central Division rivalry, always wanting to prove themselves to the big kids. For a while, it was rightfully so, since the Red Wings have more consecutive playoff appearances than the Predators have even been in existence.
It is also an enticing experience for any new fan. My first personal Red Wings experience was October 30, 2003, when there seemed to be more fights than goals in the 5-3 Predators victory. It’s a special enough moment that I remember the score, both on the scoreboard and in the box. All of the “Red Wings Suck” chants followed by a little jig involving “ay, oh, wings blow” made the games insanely memorable. And these were the years before the real rivalry got any ground.
It was only appropriate that the Predators played the Red Wings in their first ever playoff appearance in 2004, followed by a rematch in the ever surprising 2007-2008 season, when the Predators slipped into the playoffs in the very last two games. Over the course of time, the rivalry with the Red Wings has proven to be a very entertaining one, but it nearly always has been the Predators being the underdog trying to beat the dominating team.
For Predators fans, the Red Wings rivalry bleeds through and through. A major market of the original Predators was Detroit and Michigan transplants, traveling to the Middle Tennessee area for career opportunities. When the Red Wings would visit, the Preds clothes would be put to the side, and the arena would bleed red. Since then, the Preds have vowed to “get the red out.” It made the rivalry off the ice just as intense as on the ice—fan bragging rights were at stake. Nashville mocks the Red Wings more than any team. Anyone remember the video on the jumbotron a few years back, with the Wings players looking like a geriatrics team? And the beloved catfish that is thrown out at pivotal times is actually a spoof of the Detroit octopus, a tradition that dates back to when a team just had to win 8 games to win the Stanley Cup. The Nashville fandom has a lot of ties to the Red Wings organization, and that makes the rivalry extraordinary.
As for Red Wings fans… this rivalry has been fairly trivial overall. It probably wasn’t trivial for the Red Wings fans who lived in the Middle Tennessee area, but it was not likely to be a highlight game on NBC Sports Network’s “Rivalry Wednesday.” Several Red Wings fans in the past have said to me that this rivalry is “nothing” compared to rivalries with teams like Chicago, St. Louis, or even Colorado. It’s kind of how Nashville feels about the rivalry with Columbus… Columbus does not like Nashville at all, where Nashville just kind of pets Columbus on the head and says “aw, it’s okay little guy. You’ll get your chance.” It’s what the Red Wings did for years to the Predators.
Now, things are changing.
Though the Predators have not had the decades to build a rivalry with Detroit like Chicago or St. Louis has, the Predators have hung with the “big kid” Red Wings for several seasons now, not just one fluke season. Though the record against the Red Wings last season was tied at 3-3, the Preds just passed the Wings for 4th place and home ice advantage in the Western Conference, the first time the Predators have been ranked higher than the Wings in a playoff series. The icing on the cake finally came when the Predators finally defeated their nemesis in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs… in 5 games. The Predators in previous lost series with Detroit have resiliently gone to 6 games.
The rivalry has hit a new beginning. The Red Wings played their cards by acquiring a fan favorite of Nashville in Jordin Tootoo. The Detroit fans have the bitter reminder that the Predators knocked their team out of the playoffs in a season where the Red Wings had to fight back from a horrible start. For the first time ever… the Preds may actually have the upper hand on the rivalry, and Red Wings fans and players are (and should be) taking note.
Currently, the Predators sit 3 points above the Red Wings in the standings, but Detroit has a one game advantage. Faceoff is at 7 PM, as the Predators expect their 21st consecutive regular season sellout. Friendly reminder, Gaustad “goose” calls can be purchased in the arena, so you can throw those nasty Tootoo whistles out.