Hockey is “back.” Deal with it.

Written by: Miranda Martin

After months of protest, frustration, and more angst than a John Hughes movie, it seems to be difficult for NHL fans to have a small amount of complacency for the quickly-compiled shortened season.

With just a short time before the “super Saturday” opening night matchups, the NHL has been tugging at the heart strings of overwhelmed fans with their new media hashtag and slogan: “#hockeyisback.” However, several fans around the internet have made it perfectly clear that this is not the case, with many of them saying “hockey never left; the NHL did.” Many of these comments originated in larger hockey markets, particularly in Canada, but I have seen dozens of Nashville fans in on the conversation to find something more to complain about.

But there’s the little, teeny-tiny issue to be addressed: Nashville isn’t Canada. It isn’t Chicago, New York, Toronto, or any other large, heavily-populated metropolis market with multiple (professional) hockey options readily available. There isn’t a minor league team just down the street playing at Municipal Auditorium. Nashville is still a growing hockey market that absolutely needs the NHL team to grab the attention of the casual passerby. Fifteen years ago, many Nashvillians didn’t know much, if anything about hockey. I’m sure my grandmother in Kentucky still thinks hockey is the thing you do in the outhouse. If the NHL hadn’t ever existed, would Nashville even care about hockey? Before making this sound like the plot of It’s a Wonderful Life, the fact of the matter is hockey certainly wouldn’t be affecting as many people as it is today without the NHL.

For many Nashville fans, both diehard and casual, hockey truly is back. Yes, there have been other options immediately available within the city, but does anyone want to really try to fit 17,000 bystanders into the stands of Centennial Sportsplex all night? The availability of skating times plus the temperature of the ice rink can make it difficult to attend. Nashville is also geographically challenged for outdoor hockey—going out to play a game of shinny on the streets will only happen when a new ice age begins.

The truth is that NHL is a brand—a product. And it’s one of the best products out there. There’s a product that I like that is primarily sold out of state, but this doesn’t mean that I drive up there every time I run out of it. Sometimes because of money -hungry corporations, products are recalled off the shelves and temporarily out of stock. What makes this any different? It’s the choice to wait and check back on the shelves or to find an off brand that has the same qualities but is missing that key ingredient.

So the other products of hockey, such as minor leagues and college teams, were available but hours and several gallons of gas away. But think about this. Albeit not very large, Nashville is a metropolis area. Many Predators fans head from their jobs in the metro area straight to the arena. Traveling hours away for a game is not an option, but does that make them less of a hockey fan because of circumstances? Even on weekends, what used to be a four hour event at the end of the day has to turn into an entire day’s adventure. Especially for families with younger children, it’s more of a task than an adventure.  The cost of the new product may not be worth the benefits.

So yes, hockey may have never left, but it is readily available and in stock. The NHL is back on the shelf, and soon everyone will remember how awesome of a product it is. But for all of you nay-sayers, don’t worry. I’ll let you know when there’s more to complain about.

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