Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Smashville

There's Hockeytown, USA, in Detroit and the State of Hockey in Minnesota.  They are more just a catch phrase, to help sell the game.  They are two traditional hockey markets where the sport is as big, if not bigger, than any of the other pro sports played in the city or state.

Then there is Smashville, located in Nashville, Tennessee, home of the Predators.  As far as you can get from the traditional markets, the city has embraced the Predators the last few years after the team was mired in turmoil off the ice.  The team has been owned by a group of local owners since 2007, bringing stability to the team, allowing the management, coaches, and players to simply focus on hockey.  They weren't moving to Hamilton or Kansas City or anywhere else.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the team has enjoyed its greatest period of success since then, with the team making the playoffs 7 out of 10 times since.  Tonight, they get to host a Western Conference Final game for the first time in franchise history.  The Bridgestone Arena will be packed and loud, rocking yellow coloured t-shirts, matching the team's yellow home jerseys.

The area around the arena is also jumping before and after the game (especially after a win).  The building has helped revitalize the area.  Without the team, it's unlikely that process would have happened as quickly, especially with the bars and restaurants popping up, where fans without tickets go to watch their team.

Nashville is home to country music.  There have been plenty of sightings of country music's biggest stars at the Bridgestone Arena, cheering on the Predators.  Luke Bryan, Vince Gill, and Carrie Underwood are among the celebrity fans.  I certainly hope Underwood would be, considering she is married to Predators' captain, Mike Fisher, who she met while he played for the Ottawa Senators.

There are plenty of people, particularly Canadians, who believe hockey shouldn't be played in southern markets like Nashville.  Instead, there should be teams in Quebec (most definitely) and Hamilton (maybe), or other Canadian cities.  I, however, feel hockey is a great game and should be spread around the world, including what is normally Nascar country.  Time needs to build those markets.  That isn't to say that the NHL shouldn't eventually throw in the towel and relocate a team *cough* Phoenix *cough*.  But, Nashville is proof that if you give it some time, with stable ownership, and a team worth cheering on, the hockey can work in the south.

No comments:

Post a Comment