By Alex Norman
At the time of this writing the Nashville Predators were playing the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Finals. The Predators are trying to get to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.
Full disclosure: I am not a Nashville Predators fan. My allegiances lie with one of the Original 6 franchises. So I am not nearly as invested in this team’s successes or failures as others. But I would like to see them do well. The better they perform, the better things are for the great sport of hockey in the Volunteer State.
I’ve been to more than a few Predators games over the years, and wanted to see for myself what the atmosphere was like in the postseason.
So, I headed to all important Game 3 in Nashville on Tuesday, May 16th.
The first thing I can tell you is that it is a complete circus around the arena. There are spots to tailgate, there are fun activities for the kids… and that’s not even bringing the bars and restaurants on Broadway into play.
The decision decades ago to build Bridgestone Arena in that location, and not put it in the suburbs, was definitely the right call. Nashville has turned into one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, and a vibrant nightlife is one of the main reasons why. The Predators fill that arena 41 times a year, and a deep postseason run continues to fund the local economy.
Walking into the game I was struck by just how many fans were not only showing up, but in full yellow Preds gear. They are fully invested in this team. For years hockey was considered a sport that would never make it in warm climates. Not the case in Nashville.
I also noticed that the Ducks has minimal representation. Part of this was because of geography certainly, but perhaps the biggest reason is the Predators restrictive ticket purchasing policies. The Predators only sell tickets to people that are in their viewing area. If you buy a ticket and your zip code isn’t from Tennessee or a couple of other southern states, your order will be canceled.
In the opening round the policy was so restrictive that you couldn’t even transfer your ticket. The days of paper tickets are going by the wayside unfortunately as well. For this game “your ticket is your phone,” so it was scanned upon entry. For those wanting a ticket stub as a souvenir, you were out of luck.
The game itself was a slugfest for a while, with the Ducks getting a couple of good chances but otherwise trying to keep the Predators from getting into any kind of rhythm. This strategy also kept the sell-out crowd from making their voices heard at full volume.
Anaheim got a power play goal in the second period and seemed to be in control heading into the final period, but then Nashville kept chipping away and eventually tied the game. The building got loud. You could barely hear yourself speak.
The Preds then had two goals wiped off the board due to interference with the goaltender. The crowd got angry and began throwing the souvenir towels onto the ice. Not a good look for the city to a national television audience.
Late in regulation the Preds got a power play and scored the winning goal. The rest of the way the arena was even louder, reaching a peak of 126.4 decibels according to broadcast radio engineer Marshall Weidner. It reminded me of how loud Thompson-Boling Arena used to get at the height of the Bruce Pearl era.
The Preds lead the series 2 games to 1. Walking out of the arena I hear a fan yell “10 down, 6 to go.” Those 6 wins are the toughest to get of course.
Outside I see a familiar face. Former Titans coach Jeff Fisher. That’s the kind of random sighting that a big city brings to the table.
On this night, the dream of a Stanley Cup parading down Broadway is as strong as ever.