Tales From the PredsMobile: A Birth of an Ovation
By Miranda Martin
The Nashville Predators faced the St. Louis Blues in the final home game of the season. The game was tied at 3 with just shy of 4 minutes left in the game. If the Predators won, and the Edmonton Oilers beat the Vancouver Canucks in the late game, the Preds were entering their 4th consecutive playoff berth. The tension of the room was growing high, and it was not only just because of the final game of the regular season.
If they lost, it may have been the last home game in Nashville Predators history.
The 2007-2008 season was the season of uncertainty for the Nashville Predators franchise. The team had been placed for sale in May 2007, citing that there was not enough passion for the team anymore. A firesale of epic proportions, losing players like Paul Kariya (now on the opposing Blues team), Captain Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, and others left the roster slim, and the ownership group at the time was liquidating as much as they could. The team wasn’t even projected to make the playoffs, and many experts, opposing fans, and Hamilton, Ontario residents didn’t even project that the Predators would stay in Nashville at all. Even with a July Season Ticket Rally and effort team continued to struggle to maintain a paid attendance of 14,000, the “magic number” of a stable franchise.
With 3:44 left in the game, Paul Kariya went to the box for the St. Louis Blues, giving the Predators a late power play with a tie game. As he approached the box, the fans cheered loudly, seeing it as a form of vengeance for losing the face of the Predators the previous season.
Preds fans kept cheering long after he sat in the box… and they didn’t stop.
It was the first TV timeout standing ovation rally. I remember it very vividly as one of the pinnacle moments of the Preds franchise. I sat in 222. Once I noticed that the game ops hadn’t started playing any music or commercials, I knew we were in for something special. The thunderous applause was deafening at the time, and last year was one of the only times that I’ve heard a Preds crowd louder.
The emotion of the crowd was palpable. The uncertainty, the hope, the despair of the season all culminated into one massive cry of 17,000+ wondering if this was the last time they were seeing their beloved team on the ice. Waving their finale shirts in the air, a thunderous battle cry lasted through the TV timeout and into the final minutes of the game. Then, 88-seconds into the power-play, JP Dumont scored and the Predators rallied to victory. Later, the Oilers did beat the Canucks, and once again, the Predators would face the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs.
Now, ten years, a wonderful and dedicated ownership group, a golden rebrand, a Stanley Cup run, and 100+ consecutive sellouts later, the moment is just a faint memory in the many rituals of the Nashville Predators. “Standing O” rallies are as popular as the catfish and “you suck” chants, and the momentum has resulted in some fantastic goals and support from the players on the ice.
But at the time, it was a critical movement of the franchise. The fans were heard, and they were never silenced again. Now, Nashville thrives as a hockey market, gaining respect nationally and internationally as one of the best franchises in sports.
Traditions arise at the strangest times. Even the last two home games have started a random “Let It Be” serenade, with cell phone lights and swaying during a goal challenge. As a team who loves a good tradition, it’s good to know where they came from.
We can only hope that there are many rallying ovations in the future, especially with the momentum of the playoffs. So nurse those vocal cords, get that honey lemon tea, and instead of rallying to keep a franchise, let’s get ready for a rally to the Cup.