Saturday, April 19, 2008

We're all in this together

We’ve got our kitsch…the Fang Fingers, the goal chant, the taunts from Cellblock 303…yeah I guess people could say that fans in Nashville have a rather large cheese factor to them when it comes to cheering on our team. Put all that aside and you’ll find one of the most amazing fan bases in all of the NHL. We’re not one of the Original Six and frankly, I think I like it that way. We’re the newbies of the league, still trying to prove to so many that we can and will do what we need to do to say “Nashville knows its hockey.” Yet we have one of the largest individual, non-corporate season ticket holder fan bases, so I have to keep wondering…when will they [read: everyone else in the hockey world] learn?

Every season there is talk about how great the fans are in Nashville when the arena is full. But talk is talk and no one can really understand what the atmosphere of a game at the Sommet Center is like until they’ve experienced it for themselves. Eklund and Julie Robenhymer from HockeyBuzz have their own accounts of watching a game in Nashville posted here and here. They do a great job of describing what it's like and I'm pretty sure they'll be welcome back with open arms any time.

So by now, you might have heard about our “TV timeout” moment from the April 3rd game against St. Louis. Never before and possibly never again will I be lucky enough to experience what can only be described as a truly magical moment in Predators history. So here’s the scene: We’re battling for 8th in the West with Vancouver on our heels. We know how badly we need to win this game to stay alive. We manage to get a one goal lead 4 minutes into the third period and then it’s all a game of “secure our lead or we’re in serious danger of losing it”. We, as fans, were pumped and wanted to make sure the team knew it too. With about four and a half minutes left to go in regulation, we started cheering and waving our free t-shirts in the air. Now this kind of thing has happened before but normally it’s prompted by the in-game announcer saying “blah blah blah thank you so-and-so sponsor for the free t-shirts that were given away tonight…now let’s see those shirts!” BUT this time, there was no prompting at all. Just genuine and completely authentic cheering, yelling, screaming and applause. About 30 seconds into this outburst, I look at Becky, standing to my left and shake my head as if to say “I can’t believe we’re still going”. We both try to say something but neither of us can hear a thing because the noise is deafening. So instead, we laugh to ourselves, shrug our shoulders and woo hoo our hearts out for the next four minutes or so.

If you still don’t believe that this kind of spontaneous outpouring of support could come from hillbillies and country folks down in Nashville (thanks for that, Chelios!) then I give you Exhibit A:

Call me a softie, but I still tear up and get the chills when I watch this. And this was only about half of the length of what the Predators organization refers to as the “fan standing ovation”. Seriously amazing. Being a Nashville fan makes me feel as though we are all one big happy family and I could not think of 17,112 other people I would chose to spend time cheering on my team with.

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