What a weekend for the city of Nashville and for hockey in general. It’s actually hard to believe, after fourteen months of planning, the festivities are over and all we have left are memories. But good memories they are! Thousands of hockey fans from across the world gathered in the Music City this weekend, packing the Music City Center, the Bridgestone Arena, Demonbreun Street, and everywhere within walking distance. Although we are fully aware of how great our city is, it was humbling to hear how much fun people from elsewhere were having and the great praise they had for Nashville.
NHL FAN FAIR:
NHL Fan Fair, which opened Thursday at 4PM, had more than enough activities to keep you occupied for hours on end. While my STH Rep said – without kids – you could knock everything out in one day, I ended up going Thursday and Saturday (and could’ve gone Sunday if I felt like spending another $40 to get in). Merchandise booths to spend money, hockey-related activities, autograph hours, Jell-O molds, and a leaning tower of Velveeta kept everyone on their toes. Oh yeah, and the music. Music outside and music inside; hope you like it!
I am actually glad I went Thursday night because Saturday was just as crowded as I figured it would be. Thursday was busy, but you averaged 5 minutes per line compared to 15 to 20 minutes per line on Saturday.
NHL WINTER PARK:
The NHL Winter Park, which was opened back in December, kept fans busy with an outdoor skating rink, plenty of vendor booths, giant light-up hockey pucks featuring the All-Stars, and music. If you did not have tickets to the All-Star events or wanted to buy tickets for Fan Fair, the Winter Park area still provided plenty of hockey entertainment without breaking the bank.
I wish I had taken more pictures of all the pucks. I got a little busy checking everything out.
NHL ALL-STAR SKILLS COMPETITION:
What is arguably the most entertaining event of the All-Star Weekend, the Skills Competition didn’t fail to impress the hockey masses. With appearances by Chewbacca, Jaromir Jagr’s “brother”, and Shea Weber’s epic slapshot, Saturday night’s festivities were ones to remember.
As no surprise, Shea Weber held onto his ‘Hardest Shot’ contest streak, notching a slapshot clocked at 108.1 MPH. A little less than last year, but 108 nonetheless. Detroit’s Dylan Larkin also made headlines, breaking the fast lap challenge record, one that has been in place since 1996.
NHL ALL-STAR GAME:
In what is normally considered the lesser of the two main events of the weekend, with the new 3-on-3 format, things got a little more interesting. The Atlantic Division knocked out the Metropolitan Division in the first round. Then, the Pacific Division surprisingly bumped out the Central Division in the second round. Even though the home team was knocked out, the final round between John Scott’s Pacific Division and Jaromir Jagr’s Atlantic Division was still pretty spectacular. But, while the Central was still in the game, all four Predators All-Stars ended up with at least one point (Rinne, assist; Josi, goal; Neal, two goals; Weber, assist). And the Man of the Hour John Scott? He notched two goals.
While the League didn’t start out with John Scott as an MVP choice for the All-Star Game, the fans made it very clear that if he didn’t win… Well, there’d be rioting equivalent to Vancouver’s epic Stanley Cup loss riot.
Well, the League listened and named John Scott MVP of the NHL All-Star Game. Smart move, NHL.
In what started out as a write-in vote turned into the highlight of the entire NHL All-Star Weekend. After the League tried to pressure him to drop out of the All-Star contention, John Scott not only won the hearts of Nashville but the hearts of the hockey world as a whole. As P.K. Subban said, “Everything he got at the end of it, he deserved”. You can’t even write stories as well as this played out. In fact, we hear he has already been approached about selling the movie rights. Okay, that’s a little crazy but hey, Hollywood’s struggling for some fresh material so you never know.
A successful weekend for the city of Nashville? You bet. Success at pointing out that Nashville is a hockey market? Amen. While we all soak in what’s left of our All-Star Weekend high, it’s time to focus on the second half of the 2015-16 season. Did this break help or hurt the Predators or anyone else? We’ll all find out soon enough. But I have to admit, it was refreshing to enjoy all things hockey with fellow hockey lovers from around the League and world. We were essentially one big happy hockey family. Now, it’s back to the real world.