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Tales from the Predsmobile: The Golden Rule of Home Ice

By: Miranda Martin (https://twitter.com/lovelyminda)

 During the offseason, when I drive people from town, I usually get a lot of people talking about crowding Broadway and Walk of Fame Park for viewing parties. When I’d drive out-of-towners, many want to know how it felt during May and June. The city is still hungry for hockey, and it won’t be satisfied until the next banner says “Stanley Cup Champions.”

 But amidst the revelries, there are several skeptics that the excitement will continue beyond the postseason, and the “bandwagon” will run its course.

There have been a handful of passengers from other NHL and sports markets that have discussed this “bandwagon” fear with me. They appreciated the excitement for the team, and even some  rooted for the Preds in the Stanley Cup Finals, but they worry that it was just a phase for a non-traditional hockey market like Nashville. Some were even in town during the end of the playoff run, and even one of them specifically mentioned watching as fans dissipated from the Stanley Cup Game 5 viewing party from his hotel room at the Nashville Hilton. He argued that ‘real fans stay until the very end.’

Before Preds fans start getting out the pitchforks, I tried to find out where the passengers are from to get their perspective. Most were from large cities that have had teams for 50-100 years, such as New York, Boston, Chicago, and, yes, even Pittsburgh. Their main criticism is that it is not a religion down here like the pro sports cultures in their respective cities. However, a lot of these regions don’t have the culture of college football as strong as this region has–a major reason the Predators front office wanted the arena to have the atmosphere of a college game.

As Preds fans, we don’t have near-century or even half-century of experience, laden with countless downfalls and triumphs. And there is is value to be learned of fans who have had to wait for their team to win it all–Hell, there’s plenty of teams older than the Preds that are STILL waiting for a bid at the Stanley Cup. But we’re at a fifth of a century, and with the addition of the Vegas Golden Nights, the Predators are no longer part of the newest expansion teams.

At the dawn on the 20th season, we have a prime–dare I say, golden?–opportunity to cultivate a wonderful and significant hockey culture here in Nashville.  Thanks to the desire of having Stanley Cup Finals tickets, season ticket sales went through the roof. Over a thousand children and adults signed up for hockey leagues and lessons around the city, and plans for more ice rinks around the Nashville Metro Area are being developed. With new people relocating to Nashville daily, many are looking for a local pro team to follow at the same time that a new generation of hockey fans are born.The hockey culture is ready and willing, and it’s planting the seeds for many generations of Preds fans.

But with the Predators arriving to the home opener with two losses to start the season, the excitement to some Preds fans is starting to wear off just 5 days into a new season. The first two games have been extremely frustrating, especially with the Preds being shutout against the team who squandered their hopes of hoisting the Stanley Cup.The team has taken too many penalties (a trend throughout the whole league with adjustments to the officiating), the lines haven’t found the chemistry, and the blueline is sorely missing the presence of Ryan Ellis and relying heavily on goaltending to save the game, which clearly has failed so far.

I think a lot of this frustration comes from the fact that many of us are still set in the postseason mentality. Yes, we want another run at the Cup–who doesnt?–but that is 8+ months away. This isn’t a playoff series anymore. The Predators are not going to be eliminated from the regular season if they don’t get their game together by October 12th. Plus, they haven’t even played at home yet, a critical advantage to the team and fans’ mindsets.

In an attempt to continue the mindset and “cultivate” this hockey culture. All of the frustration from the past 2 games needs to be left at the doorstep of Bridgestone Arena for the home opener and banner raising, win or lose. It’s the first professional championship in the city since the AFC Championship by the Tennessee Titans in 1999. We should revel in it before looking forward to the next 79 guaranteed games this season.

With the Predators having such great success last year, it’s going to be hard to not be disappointed if the team fails to go to the Finals again. But fans can’t give in and call the season over this early. If we do, we are no better than the fans around the league dying to call Nashville a bunch of bandwagoners in the wake of a fluke postseason.

And if you just feel like complaining about the season being over after 2 games, then that’s fine. Go to the Predators Facebook page, which is essentially the Yahoo Answers equivalent of real hockey talk, and get it out of your system. But with so many new fans possibly experiencing the regular season for the first time, it’s critical that we show them what Smashville is about by rocking the Bridgestone Arena. It’s time to set the tone for the next twenty years of Predators hockey.

 

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