By: Becca Schaefer (@rschaefer653)
Note from Miranda Martin: I’m so happy to introduce Becca Schaefer, taking the wheel as the first PredsMobile Takeover! She is the reason I became a Lyft driver in the first place. Without her, there’d be no PredsMobile! This is her story, in her words, of becoming a diehard Preds fan over the past decade.
For as long as I can remember, my Dad has always said “it’s not a sport if there is no blood on the ice.” Though I’ll give some credit to him for my love of the sport now, I didn’t really become anything more than a fair weather fan until we moved and I was introduced to the Predators.
Let me rewind a bit. I’m originally from Southern California. In SoCal, we had two hockey teams to choose from – the Kings and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Los Angeles was too far of a drive (#traffic) so Anaheim was the only team we could feasibly cheer for. Even so, my first hockey game didn’t come until I was 7 – probably right around the same time the Preds were playing their first franchise game in Nashville. My first game I was in a suite (work perks kudos to Dad), and I immediately decided I wanted my next birthday party to be at a game. So, my party the next year was at a Ducks game, and somewhere along the way I met Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya (I now regret not keeping tabs on those autographs).
Looking back now, I realize I didn’t really have a lot of exposure to the sport. The two previously mentioned games were the only games I went to in person as a child and I can’t even remember watching games on TV. I never saw a “winning” team (the Ducks didn’t win a cup until after we moved). I never really felt like part of a fan base because unless you were at the games in SoCal there wasn’t much coverage of the sport.
Fast forward to 2006 when Nissan moves to Franklin and a bunch of Californians invade Middle Tennessee. The first full season we were here we only went to games where the Preds played the Ducks and we cheered for whoever was winning. We didn’t really care who won. When rumors started swirling that we might lose the Predators, I decided I didn’t really want to get invested in a team that might now be here so I fell out of love with the sport.
Once it was determined that the Preds were here to stay, I was all in. I was ecstatic when we beat the Ducks to go to round 2 of playoffs for the first time. While studying at Western Kentucky, I became a Preds college ambassador, driving down for more college night games than I care to admit. I sacrificed sleep around finals to go to playoff games. I cared more about the Preds than I did most of my college sport teams (sorry, fellow Hilltoppers).
Every year we made playoffs, I hoped it was our year and I’d wonder what would happen if playoffs overlapped with CMA Fest. Every year, I hoped that it would be the year we’d shock the world and shut up the “how many cups does Nashville have” fans of other teams. Every year, I was disappointed. Because of that, I went into last season’s playoff run a little jaded. Even though I WANTED us to shut the critics up, I wasn’t entirely sure this was our year to do it.
Boy was I wrong. So wrong. This was the year we made it over the round 2 hump. We learned that hockey trumps CMA Fest when it comes to Bridgestone and the hockey world discovered what Nashville is made of. I found myself at downtown watch parties with friends for basically every game, whether it was home or away. I wagered Preds tattoos in a bet with friends during round 2. I hugged my friends and cried in Walk of Fame Park when we took out Anaheim to go to finals. And I cried with the team when we came up just short in the final round.
Last season was a roller coaster of emotions – and the icing on the cake was when the Western Conference championship banner was raised to the rafters during the home opener. I’ve never been more proud of our scrappy team and I’ll ride that emotional roller coaster anytime the Preds are ready to ride again.