Each summer, The Tennessean polls readers on Nashville's best of the best from a wide variety of categories, something they call the "Toast of Music City". I've said for a long time that as local hockey fans, one of the best ways we can help the team is to support the businesses which engage with the Predators. Corporate sponsorship is a major component of the pro sports industry, and those corporate dollars will follow the demonstrated interests of the marketplace.
You can vote daily on the 2011 Toast of Music City awards, but we're into the final week (ballots close Sunday, July 17th). So follow after the jump as we look at some of the various voting categories, along with suggestions to receive your Preds-friendly vote...
Best Festival: Predators Foundation Wine Festival - this annual event is one of the major fundraisers for the Predators Foundation, which supports a number of local charities.
Best Music Venue: Bridgestone Arena - one of the biggest changes that we've seen since the advent of local ownership is an increased focus on building the non-hockey business at the arena, and the efforts they've gone to in that regard have been extraordinary, ranking 6th in the U.S. in concert attendance (17th in the world) during 2010.
Best Place to Take the Kids: Nashville Predators Game - is there any doubt?
Best Radio DJ: There are a number of hockey-friendly options here that you can choose - Woody & Jim at 107.5 The River (both big hockey fans), George Plaster, and Mark Howard. If you're talking about true DJ's, I think you'd stick more with Woody & Jim - are sports talk radio hosts really "DJ's"?
Food & Drink
Best Local Bar: Blackstone Restaurant & Brewery has long played host to 104.5's weekly radio show, making it the obvious choice here.
Best Restaurant (overall): O'Charley's is associated with the Predators throughout the year, hosting hockey nights all season long at various locations around Nashville.
Best Sports Bar: There are a number of Preds-friendly options here, but the one that jumps out at me is Bleachers Sports Grill in Franklin, which has hosted viewing parties on a number of occasions (I remember watching Ryan Ellis get drafted from there in 2008, as Twitter blew up with all the "what, another defenseman?" reaction).
Health & Professional
Best Financial Institution: Fifth Third Bank is now the team's main local financial partner, and a major presence in Middle Tennessee.
Best Hospital: Vanderbilt Medical Center is the one of the Predators' most visible supporters, and has close ties with the Predators Foundation as well.
People & Places
Best Blog: Do we want your vote for On The Forecheck? Absolutely! But no matter what, we'd like to see a Predators blog at least crack the Top 3. The guys at Section 303 placed 2nd last year, so we need to keep hockey represented well alongside all the mommy & fashion blogs out there!
Best Local Celebrity: There are plenty of hockey fans included here, such as Amy Grant, Vince Gill, and Dierks Bentley, but this year, you have to give it to Carrie Underwood, if only to celebrate the Mike Fisher trade.
Best Local Pro Athlete: Blake Geoffrion? Pekka Rinne? Shea Weber? Take your pick...
Best Local TV Anchor/Reporter: Joe Dubin of WKRN, hands down. He doesn't just work the Predators angle, he does the heavy lifting on local sports coverage around the city and has one of the snappiest Twitter accounts in town, too.
Best Sports Reporter: A catch-all category covering the various forms of media, you can comfortably go with Joe Dubin, Mark Howard, or Willy Daunic here. I'm endorsing Willy, for taking the creative step of inviting a few of us bloggers to join him for the post-game radio show on a number of occasions last season.
Retail & Personal
Best Franchise New Car Dealer: Gary Force Acura stepped up in a major way during the playoffs, with a sponsorship deal that saw their branding around the entire upper bowl.
These are just a few suggestions, I'm sure some of you could find other examples as well - but either way, make sure to jump into the Toast of Music City voting on a daily basis, and make hockey fans heard here in Nashville.