Happy Hockey Day, Nashville!
By: Miranda Martin
While America celebrates its special Hockey Day across the country, it seems like a good time to celebrate hockey in the South.
The non-traditional markets in the South always seem to get the short end of the stick. In fact, the only southern NHL team playing today is the Dallas Stars, who take on the Calgary Flames. While this may be just due to the sudden schedule, the South is still traditionally forgotten as a hockey market.
When they are spoken of, it seems to be doom and gloom. The Atlanta Thrashers are now the Winnipeg Jets. The days of the Phoenix Coyotes are numbered. The Florida Panthers are still trying to get back in the Playoffs. The only immunities in the south seem to be the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes, who can still revel in their 2004 and 2006 Stanley Cups, respectively.
As for the Nashville Predators, the franchise and hockey is finally getting the spotlight. Talents like Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber have got “experts” talking about the sport. Beyond the actual team, the fans and Nashville have begun supporting the team and the sport more than ever. Last night’s game against the Anaheim Ducks was the team’s 20th consecutive regular season sellout. In fact, the arena was past the 17,113 seated capacity, filling the standing room area to 17,322. With Detroit coming into town next, it is inevitable that this number will hit 21. After all, at one point in time, the only sell out games were against Detroit.
But Hockey Day isn’t just about the NHL. Hockey as a sport in Nashville has grown exponentially since the NHL began. The Nashville Youth Hockey League is booming, and even has bragging rights to developing former Nashville Predator Blake Geoffrion. High school hockey has grown to be significantly popular, and teams have even traveled across to represent the Middle Tennessee Area in tournaments. Currently, the Nashville Predators even have an area for the “Predators Cup,” saluting the high school champions and showing the history outside of sections 301/302. Even inline hockey during the spring and fall has become popular. After the major flood happened in 2010, the inline rinks in Hendersonville were one of the first places to be renovated so they could have a season.
This is what Hockey Day in America should be about. It should be about the successful growth of a wonderful sport beyond the northern cities that can have backyard rinks. The ice may not around here, but hockey does.
So happy hockey day, Preds fans. Play some knob hockey or air hockey, or if the Sportsplex has openings, lace up the skates. If not, take the day off, recover from yet another shootout, and get ready to be loud and proud on Tuesday.