With Fisher Trade, Predators Gain Loyal New Fans From "Team Carrie"

The Ottawa Senators received Nashville's first round pick in the 2011 Entry Draft and a conditional pick in 2012. 

Nashville received center Mike Fisher and a legion of brand new, but already diehard, Predators fans. 

Fisher is of course married to country music star Carrie Underwood. And with Fisher bound for the the country music capital of the world, following his February 10 trade to the Predators, everyone made the obvious connection. 

"I'm the hockey guy and I made a hockey trade. But if there is residual benefit from Carrie Underwood being at more games, that would be fabulous," said Predators General Manager David Poile, at the suggestion he was trying to leverage Fisher's famous wife into better crowds at the Bridgestone Arena.

At the time, irked that Poile would even have to dignify such a suggestion with comment, I wrote, "Country music is Nashville's chief export--people go to Bridgestone Arena to see country music stars like people go to Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center to marvel at its steel support structure. If you think even one fan went to a Predators game to see Carrie Underwood this season, you are completely deluded."

It seemed like a pretty safe bet--the Predators had been filling ~95% of the arena, before the trade. I didn't expect that 5% of remaining tickets to suddenly be bought up by Carrie Underwood fans. And even if a few people did go to a Predators game to catch a glimpse of Underwood, cheering from her luxury box, what were the chances I'd get called out on my claim?

It took about two hours for Jill in Texas to send me this message on Twitter: "I saw her & got great pics. otherwise I wouldnt have been there. Team Carrie: We support."

Woops. 

So when I decided to research what affect, if any, the Fisher-Underwood union has had on the Predators' popularity, I knew to look no further than my Twitter followers list. After the trade, a steady influx of Twitter users with "carrie" in their handle started to follow my page. Here were fans, dedicated enough to Underwood, that they sought out some obscure hockey blogger, covering the team for which her husband plays.

And I could only admire them. People who live in glass houses--and also track the inanities of entertainment celebrities' lives on the internet--shouldn't throw stones. After all, these Underwood super fans learned about Fisher probably much in same way Predators fans did. 

"When the rumors started swirling around that Carrie was dating Mike Fisher, as a protective fan, I was very curious as to who this guy was. So I did what we all do. I googled him," says Camile Rivera-Garcia, 25, a huge Underwood fan in Raleigh, NC. 

"After learning what a great guy he was, I made a forum on the [Carried Underwood] fan club page exclusively about all things Mike Fisher, and posted information about him and urged everyone to learn a little bit more about him."

Unlike hockey fans, however, concerned with the yes/no of whether a player helps the team, Underwood's fans researched Fisher with the meticulousness of an FBI background search and the good-natured concern of parents on prom night. In the pantheon of hockey metaphors, these devotees were closer to scouts than fans, judging whether Fisher was a fit not for Ottawa or Nashville, but for "Team Carrie," as Jill in Texas so eloquently tweeted. 

And like every scout, all that was left was to drive really far to see the player in person. 

"I decided I needed to see him in action on the ice. I watched the Ottawa Senators play against the Leafs in 2009 and totally fell in love with the game of hockey," says Rivera-Garcia.

Camile Rivera-Garcia is probably the exact kind of outsider many expected the Fisher-Underwood connection to draw to hockey. Originally from Puerto Rico, and living in the American South, she had no natural affinity for a game played on ice. When Mike Fisher was in town to play the Hurricanes, however, she made an exception. 

"I was probably one of the few people cheering for the Senators at the RBC [Center]. I was getting mean looks from people. They were probably thinking, 'What is this Puerto Rican, Raleigh resident doing cheering for a Canadian Team?'"

Now, however, she's a diehard Predator fan, even though Nashville, a Western Conference team, rarely, if ever, plays the Hurricanes. She pays $170 dollars a year to get out-of-market broadcasts of the Predators through NHL Gamecenter Live. And on her next trip to Nashville, she plans to buy a #12 Predators jersey--though she's still unsure whether the name on the back will read "FISHER," "UNDERWOOD," or "FISHERWOOD." 

Not every new Fisher fan was so quick to drop hometown allegiances, however. Katie Lesperance, age 17, may be the biggest Carrie Underwood fan in Vancouver, BC. She too now watches every Predator game. And when the Predators met the Canucks in the Western Conference semi-finals this season,  Lesperance found herself in an impossible situation. 

"My friends and family and everyone were all for the Canucks. And I grew up watching them. But I love Nashville--they have a lot of Canadian boys on the team. So I was happy with both. I didn't cheer for just one team."

Other "Fisherwood" fans weren't so diplomatic in their choice of teams. Gracie Freebush, 51, lives in New Jersey and is a long-time Devils fan. Fondly remembering the notoriously stingy Devils teams of the late-90's, and a defensive-minded collegiate field hockey player herself, Freebush easily took to Fisher's playing style, though not his old team. 

"When I learned about Fisher, I followed the Sens for 2 years. I didn't like them much, but loved Fisher. So I tolerated them. Now I am following Fisher in Nashville, and I absolutely love the Preds. I love everything about this franchise. So it is a great fit. I hope he finishes his career in Nashville."

And that's all good news for Predators fans. For if anyone can predict the success of the Fisher-Predators match, it's his wife's fans, who want only the best for the couple. And have done all the research. 

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