Memories & History Made: Remembering the 2017 Predators Playoff Run

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Image Source: NHL.com

As Garth Brooks once (and probably still does) sang, “I could’ve missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.” And what a beautiful dance it was for the Nashville Predators; one might even use the word “GLORIOUS” (all caps needed) to describe the unbelievable run that was the road to the Stanley Cup. Alas, the dance was abruptly cut short just two wins shy of the ultimate prize. And while it is easy to be bitter – be it termed salty nowadays – one cannot look back and be disappointed. The Predators barely scratched their way into a playoff spot – number 16 of 16 to be exact – and somehow defied the odds (and the experts) by sweeping the Blackhawks, bashing the Blues, defeating the Ducks, and landing in the Stanley Cup Final. This postseason brought more than just a city together, it brought a state, a region – one could even say – an entire hockey nation together. It certainly put Nashville in a spotlight that couldn’t be ignored and, once exposed, there was no returning that (saber tooth) cat to the bag.

It’s taken me three days, but I’ve gathered some of the best memories of the Nashville Predators’ outstanding push to the Stanley Cup Final. It’s funny what can be forgotten over a period of two months, so reflecting back on all of it kind of took the sting out of watching Crosby hoist the Cup in Bridgestone Arena on Sunday. So please enjoy this trip down Memory Lane with me and be warned, some of the video clips have not been censored. This is hockey, after all.

  1. The Sweeping of Chicago

The experts were all against us. Everyone was prepared for an early Nashville exit. Everyone except for the Predators. Sweeping a divisional rival is pretty huge to begin with, but having it be a team like the Chicago Blackhawks? This sweep was only the beginning to Nashville’s historic playoff push and it couldn’t have happened in a better fashion. No Chelsea Dagger was ever heard.

And of course, after the historic sweep of Public Enemy #1, people began to wonder where Jordin Tootoo disappeared to after making this comment before the series even began:

2. Fiddler, McLeod & Harry Z: The Heroes Nashville Needs

Three unlikely heroes were born during this postseason. Their names? Vernon Fiddler, Cody McLeod, and Harry Zolniercyzk. While you expect multiple goals from guys like Johansen, Subban, Forsberg, and the like, it was these three guys who played significant roles this postseason to push Nashville to its first Stanley Cup Final.

3. #DoItForKevin

Kevin Fiala has a bright future in Nashville and boy, did he light that fire during the playoffs when he was given the chance. No one can forget it was Fiala who helped Nashville sweep Chicago with his beautiful overtime goal. Sadly, his playoff run was cut short in the second round against the St. Louis Blues when a slam into the boards resulted in a fractured femur. The team made sure to fight on in honor of their young winger, taking out the Blues in six games.

4. This Corey Perry GIF

No real reason other than I truly enjoy watching this over and over.

5. Pekka being Pekka

“Rinne Wall”, “The Eraser”, “ImPEKKAble”. Whatever you call him, Pekka Rinne is a gift from somewhere else (see Finland) that tends to defy gravity and all human logic when it comes to minding the net. Here are a few examples of Rinne’s inhuman abilities caught on camera (along with a cameo from #MonsterBlock):

6. Captain Ellis (@Ellis4Captain)

Unless you are living under a rock (or just haven’t joined Twitter), there’s no way you missed the absolute gold from this parody account. The tweets are posed as a Civil War soldier writing to his mother on the front lines of battle, which magically paired well with its hockey theme. The comically Photo-Shopped images that accompany the tweets only further solidified this account into Twitter history.

7. #TEAMTN Love

The Tennessee Titans have not shied away from showing its love its professional counterpart across the Cumberland, with players appearing throughout the regular season taking in a match. However, it was the postseason that really brought that love out in the open, especially with the Titans Offensive Line. But beyond the beer chugging, catfish loving NFL players, the Memphis Grizzlies expressed their support, along with the Nashville Sounds. The #TeamTN love even extended to Atlanta, where the Braves sent their support as well. Sorry, diehard (clingers) Thrashers fans.

8. Ilya Bryzgalov

The Bryz. Where to begin with that guy? To avoid going to deep into the cosmos with everyone’s favorite Russian (feel free to look up anything involving the universe and bears with his name attached), let’s just say his visit to Nashville during the Stanley Cup Final was everything we could have ever dreamed of. Check out his videos below and – again – I encourage you to YouTube him for even more hilarity.

9. Instrument of Crime

Will we ever be able to associate catfish with anything else ever again? Let’s be honest: Pittsburgh had this coming. By baring folks with Tennessee licenses from purchasing catfish at local markets, you pretty much asked for it. Jake Deveral, better known as Catfish Jake, just happened to be visiting family in nearby Ohio when it occurred to him that he’d be in the area during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. Purchasing a catfish in Nashville, Jake transported the mudcat up to Ohio and then over to Pittsburgh in his britches. Using Old Spice to cover the smell, Jake was able to smuggle the contraband into PPG Paints Arena and chuck it onto the ice. Deveral was escorted promptly from the building, but not all was over. A Pittsburgh judge slapped Catfish Jake with fines, which included “possession of an instrument of crime”. Long story short, the charges were dropped, but not before “Instruments of Crime” became a part of Predators history.

10. These Poor Penguins Fans

We won’t go into that “pumped in noise” conspiracy as these two fine Pens fans are a clear example of that bull-honky.

11. Best in the West

Bitter as you may all still be, there are plenty of good things to recall from this playoff run including that your Nashville Predators – coming in as the 8th seed – are officially the Best in the West for the 2016-17 season. Awarded the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl on home ice after defeating the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6, the Nashville Predators will officially have their first banner at Bridgestone Arena at the beginning of the 2017-18 season. While the ultimate goal was not met, one cannot dismiss this history-making moment.

12. Ryan Johansen

Yes, Ryan Johansen needed his own segment. Whether he was chirping with Kesler or notching goals, Johansen’s presence on the ice (and off) was exactly what Nashville needed in this postseason. We could pull the “what-ifs” about where Nashville would be at this moment had he not suffered from acute compartment syndrome, which required emergency surgery after Game 4 against Anaheim. Even after being sidelined for the remainder of the postseason, Johansen’s presence in the locker room kept the team on its toes. You just can’t help but love him and wish he had been around to help Subban get under Crosby’s skin in the Final.

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Photo Source: @PKSubban1

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Photo Source: Brooks Bratten, Nashville Predators

13. The Beautiful People

Oh, they tried, but no other NHL team was able to produce the star power that Nashville was able to garner throughout these playoffs. While some were new to the program, most of Nashville’s “beautiful people” didn’t just jump on the wagon in April. Notable names like Dierks Bentley, Vince Gill, Carrie Underwood (obviously), and Kelly Clarkson have been active at games for years. Let’s also not forget to mention Rex Ryan, of all people, is a season ticket holder. While we didn’t include all the famous folks here, it is safe to say there was definitely a FOMO about Nashville.

14. Listerine Fights Bad Breath

Let’s begin by saying, when P.K. Subban was asked by a reporter as to what he and Sidney Crosby were chatting about on the ice, do you honestly believe he would repeat what was actually said? No. For one, it’s an in-the-moment conversation (if you want to call it that) and two, it isn’t for the faint of heart. Being a quick-on-his-toes kind of guy, Subban casually mentions that Crosby just didn’t care for his breath. Needless to say, the story took on a life of its own and Listerine got a nice little plug it didn’t expect. It is fair to say there was a Listerine booth outside Bridgestone Arena before Game 6 last Sunday.

15. Lavi Fist Pumps

No explanation needed as to why this made the list. BOOM.

16. #FireMilbury

To avoid firing myself up, I will not go into detail as to why Mike Milbury needs to be fired from NBC Sports, because I have a feeling you probably know why as well. There are many speculations as to why Milbury does not care for Subban and none of them are good enough to stand a solid reasoning. Whether it’s because he’s “old school” or what have you, his comments are not good for the growth of this sport, especially when it comes to minority viewers. Predators fans (and fans of other teams) made their opinions of the “shoe beater” known with signs and special words after Game 6.

17. Knoxville

While cities across the state hosted watch parties and cheered on the Predators, including Cookeville, Chattanooga, Clarksville, Lebanon, etc., it is Knoxville who deserves a blurb on this list. Some have chalked up the enthusiasm as the city was just hungry for a championship (see 1998), whatever it was, Knoxville came out swinging in support of its brother to the west. As TV ratings began to come out after games, Knoxville continuously appeared in the top 5 cities watching the series, hitting double digits. Perhaps the combination of that winning hunger and the fact that the Predators and the Knoxville Ice Bears have such a great relationship helped open the eyes of many of our East Tennessee brethren to the greatness that is NHL hockey.

18. Dennis K. Morgan

Again, this is another topic that needs to be on the list, but I don’t particularly feel obligated to go into details about. Apparently approached by The Tennessean, regular anthem singer, Dennis K. Morgan, expressed his displeasure in being passed over by “A-List” singers during the playoffs. Needless to say, there weren’t many fans that came to his rescue and there’s a highly good chance the Predators will be searching for a new anthem singer for the 2017-18 season. If you missed this moment or want to relive the head-smacking, read the article below:

19. Goodwill amidst the Battle:

Although the Stanley Cup was the main focus, one cannot forget to mention the goodwill that came about throughout the postseason as well. During Round 2 against the Blues, the city of St. Louis was hit by historic floods. As a city that once faced our own thousand-year flood, it was only understandable that Predators CEO/President Sean Henry would partner with his Blues counterpart to help collect funds through auctions to assist in the relief. One particular feelgood moment that you may have missed was when Matt Irwin replaced a kid’s hockey gear after he heard that it had been stolen. Another heartfelt moment came just last week when Mike Fisher and Roman Josi visited their tiniest fan who was battling cancer. Sadly, the young boy passed away on Monday.

20. Good Gravy Goals

While some other good gravy goals have been scattered throughout this list, here are a few that didn’t fit anywhere else but are just too good to pass up and forget.

21. GLORIOUS

The word ‘GLORIOUS’ (again, all caps needed) has become almost synonymous with the Nashville Predators’ playoff run and I am betting it will be on the level of “All I do is Win” and “Run this Town” for future seasons. Nashville’s Game Ops enjoys their wrestling theme songs, but this one more than just stuck, it took on a life of its own. In my understanding, it was first played at Bridgestone Arena after Bobby Roode, the wrestler for whom this song belongs, performed in a Predators jersey against another wrestler donning a Blues jersey. Don’t quote me on that, but ever since that match, “Glorious” became Nashville’s anthem as they marched towards the Cup.

22. Hockey History

There’s no doubt this was a history making postseason for the Nashville Predators. While compiling all of the history would take a post of its own, here are a few notable records that Nashville broke and look to break again next season.

23. The 7th Man

And last, but certainly not least, we want to celebrate you, the 7th Man. You are what not only blew the minds of the hockey world, but the globe in general. There is no denying that Nashville is a hockey city; you just can’t argue it. While some have certainly tried, their negativism has been easily drown out by the Standing O and the thousands of fans outside of the arena. While we know the chants created by Cellblock 303 are nothing new, it came as a rude awakening to many an opposing fan, player, and members of the media. And while some were disgruntled by our “nontraditional” fan base, the majority were completely amazed and overwhelmed by your passion. Below are just some of the moments you blew the rest of the hockey world out of contention.

Looking back, it is amazing to see everything the Predators were able to accomplish in a matter of a few months not only for our city, but for the hockey world as well. NBC certainly can’t be mad at what Nashville brought to its ratings, and nor can the NHL. While this chapter in Predators history comes to a close, it certainly isn’t the end of the book. The Predators have the recipe in place to create another historic Stanley Cup run and we cannot wait for October to get that party started.

Preds Fans, this one’s for you

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I have been a little absent this season with my writings and, for a season that has made history for not only the city of Nashville, but the franchise itself, I couldn’t have picked a worse time to slack off. The superstitious side of me would say, “Hey, they’ve been doing well without you writing so why jinx it now?” but the more practical side of me says, “Wow, you’ve picked up a lot on your plate this past year; let’s not over do it.” Because this blog is a passion and a hobby, it tends to be the first thing that gets cut before anything else. But every now and then, I get a chance to set everything else aside and just write. So what on earth could be more important on a day like today than to talk about the fans of the Nashville Predators?

How would you describe a fan base like that of the Nashville Predators? You could start by comparing them to any fan base, really; a professional sports team is established and the city rallies around them, right? But like any good fan base, there’s something unique; something… off. Whether you are talking baseball, basketball, soccer, or even other NHL cities, there’s something interesting about each fan base. Hockey is not new to Nashville (professionally it has been around since the 1960’s), but it is new to unearthed market. Although the Nashville Predators hit the ice back in 1998, there were (and still are) a vast amount of Middle Tennesseans who have never been exposed to either the Preds or hockey in general. For example, I was aware the Predators existed, but it wasn’t until my boyfriend-now-husband took me to my first game back in 2009 that I truly realized its existence. I was immediately hooked. The Nashville Predators have done a hell of a job in the marketing department, but it truly takes exposure on a national (and international) level to wake the world up to what we have to offer in Nashville as a hockey market.

For the diehard Preds fans who have hung on through thick and thin, this playoff run has been one for the ages. And for those just now getting a taste of Smashville hockey, it’s exhilarating. There’s no doubt the fan base has grown by a few thousand since sweeping the Blackhawks in the first round, but make no mistake; no one should be upset about Nashville gaining “bandwagoners”. There was a time, not too long ago, when this team was almost lost to Hamilton, Ontario when then-owner Craig Leipold put the team up for sale. Fans rallied together in protest and, thanks to a group of ten investors, the Predators were safe to stay in Music City. That was just ten years ago, folks. The fans that endured that potential nightmare are certainly not complaining about the onslaught of new fans that are jumping on board to cheer on the Predators towards the ultimate goal. Sure, a good chunk may fall off if Nashville does not succeed, but the amount that will be hooked will be outstanding in numbers. Speaking just ten years ago, it was almost unheard of to have your child play hockey over sports like soccer, baseball, and football (on the average joe level), but now? The greater Nashville area has two major ice rink facilities with one more on the way being built in Bellevue. The sport is growing at a rapid pace in a market that was deemed too nontraditional just a few years ago. Heck, it still is, but the tides are changing and the world is beginning to take notice.

So back to the question of describing Nashville Predators fans (I diverged a little bit). In my opinion, fans of the Nashville Predators are a wild mix of college football fans who have brought that rowdy, hostile spirit to a sport, not on a field, but on ice. When you gather a bunch of Alabama, Tennessee, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan folks together for a single cause, it’s bound to be loud and, sometimes, out of hand. But that’s just one of the aspects that gives Nashville it’s uniqueness. Perhaps it’s a combination of the college football mentality and the southern hospitality that keeps the Bridgestone Arena consistently named one of the best arenas to watch professional hockey. May be it is due to the fact that ticket prices remain relatively affordable, which allows just about everyone to participate and attend. There is truly a difference between watching hockey on television and getting to experience the atmosphere live. Predators fans are rich, they are poor; they are farmers, they are engineers; they are rednecks and they are high class. And while those descriptions could go on to describe any professional team fan base, it goes deeper than that with Nashville; actually, it goes farther.

You see, it isn’t just the city of Nashville who has rallied around the Predators; it’s the entire state. From Memphis to Johnson City, the state of Tennessee has embraced Nashville’s hockey team and the success it has accomplished thus far. Granted, if the Tennessee Titans or the Memphis Grizzlies were in the same boat, I am sure the state would rally behind them as well. But hockey is different; hockey is not as nationally accepted as professional football and basketball. This exposure is opening the eyes of many Tennesseans to this sport for the first time and luckily, in cities like Memphis (Southaven) and Knoxville, there are hockey teams there to expand the game. Might it also be noted that most of the major colleges throughout the state (and including throughout the SEC) have hockey clubs and teams at their schools. While that may not sound like much to someone from say, Minnesota or any other traditional “state of hockey”, to those here in the South that want to see this sport grow, it’s beautiful. There were more than a thousands Predators fans decked in gold waiting to welcome the team home from Anaheim yesterday at the airport.

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Some of these folks have been fans since the beginning and some are just now learning the sport, but my gosh was it amazing to see so many people out there yesterday. When you love this sport as much as I do, you want to see this; you want to see people jumping on board and supporting the team. Will they all remain when the wheels fly off the rails? Probably not, but that is professional sports for you. However, as I mentioned before, the amount that will be instantaneously hooked will be insurmountable. The fact that, for the thousands who couldn’t get tickets, are still coming out to the game to watch it outside the arena is mind-boggling.

So to all you Nashville Predators fans out there – whether you are new to the scene or have been here since the beginning – here’s to you. Here’s to building and growing this great sport and let’s show the world what it means to be proud of this team. There is no fan base like you and while some on the outside may criticize your actions and choice of chants, just know that you are what makes Nashville great. From those who rally the pack in Cellblock 303 to the newbies in the lower bowl, and to those camped out on the plaza, it is the 7th Man that propels this team. It is the 7th Man that will continue to grow this sport. Thank you. Now let’s go out there and stand with our team and prove why Nashville is – and will always be – a hockey town.

 

GO PREDS.

UPDATE: Fiala hospitalized after early 2nd Period spill

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Image Source: NBC Sports

UPDATE: Per Thomas Willis, Digital Manager and Producer for the Nashville Predators, Kevin Fiala will be out the remainder of the playoffs with a fractured femur.

Just moments into the second period of Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues, the Predators would find themselves down one of their key contributors to the playoffs thus far.

While fighting to maintain possession, Kevin Fiala skidded awkwardly feet-first into the boards, followed by Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. Unable to get up on his own, a stretcher was brought out to assist the 20-year-old winger off the ice and to a local hospital. Per a recent update, Fiala is alert and in stable condition. Kudos to several St. Louis players, including Vladimir Tarasenko, for assisting the medical staff as they tended to Fiala.

Losing Fiala could be a rather significant blow for Nashville; especially since it looks like it could be for the long run. The Predators will just need to regroup and adjust as much as possible against this physical St. Louis bunch.