I write this with a heavy heart. A heart that goes out to his family who have endured so much over the last few years. He was a fighter and kept in great spirits despite the Predators playoff fortune. He was like the coach from Major League 2 that would sneak in a transistor radio to listen to the game unbeknownst to the nurses and doctors. When the Predators scored he would give a pump of the fist and if Chicago put one past Rinne, maybe a small expletive would trickle out.
I was first introduced to David Pillow through one of my employees. She said "Jeremy, you have to meet my friend's dad, David...I think he might be a bigger Preds fan than you." Now this is what Vincent Vega would call a "bold statement." Never has my fandom been questioned, especially outside the Metro Zip Code (until this year at the Calgary Flames shootout victory, but that's another story). I have a room painted in the black and blue design from the best third jersey in the NHL. I have memorabilia dating back to the inaugural season along with some contraband that some of my friends "happened to find while walking downtown." If there is a bigger Predator fan living in LaVergne, I had to meet him.
First I met him at my store along with the rest of his family. Thankfully I had two more employees working that night to cover the registers cause I was enamored with David's hockey knowledge. We talked for thirty minutes...a living message board of opinion and armchair GM-ing the likes I haven't seen other than MouthGuard/Musa/AndyAxel/AJS pitted against each other in the digital battle royale cage match of a game thread without the animated gifs. His family literally had to pull him out of the store mid-sentence or he would have shut the store down with me that night.
We typed back and forth on Facebook, especially away games, with running commentary about the team we love. Before his health took a turn, he was a full season ticket holder until it became too difficult for him to attend games. He was, however, always willing to go see the team practice and the morning workouts at the new Ford Ice Center were a huge delight since he lived closer to Hickory Hollow than Centennial. He was all about talking with the players and getting autographs, never for the monetary reasons some would get multiple things signed, but for the sheer glory of getting the signature of future stars of the Gold and Blue.
I remember talking to him after the Hornqvist trade, one of his favorite players, and reassuring him that the player we got in the exchange, although a different type of player, was the right step in the new offensive direction Laviolette was about to deploy. But what really made his year this season was the emergence of Filip Forsberg. He had been tracking the development of this future star since the Preds traded Martin Erat and Michael Latta for the first round pick. The season may have opened the eyes of Predator fans to what an amazing player Forsberg is, but David knew in development camp that Prince Filip was a prodigy in the making. It was this quest for knowledge about the team and the ability to look at things objectively, even being a die hard fan, that sets David Pillow at the top of my pedestal for fandom.
This season, I finally got the chance to go to a game with him. We played the Blackhawks and no one I knew wanted to brave the Red Sea to watch our Preds...until I rang David and he responded with a resounding "Hell yeah I'll go...I never miss an opportunity to cheer against the Hawks." And so it began. We met up and drove down to the game. We parked at LP Filed and took the tram over to Music City Center to accommodate him bringing his oxygen tank and to lessen the walk. We took the elevator up to 212 and thankfully the people who usually sit next to us didn't come that night so we had plenty of room. It was the Saturday December 6th game, the last one against the Hawks until the first round. I wish I could say the Preds won the game while he was in attendance, but Pred killer Marian Hossa put an end to that with the empty netter giving the Hawks a 3-1 win. It was still a hell of a game and I was hoarse going home even if it wasn't from the Predators scoring but the constant conversations about life, family and hockey all night.
David had tickets for the playoffs this year, bought at the first moment the Predators clinched a spot. Unfortunately, a week later David had the worst health scare to date and the doctors said he would be laid up in the hospital for a while, missing the first round entirely. I found this out the night I went to visit him and he assured me that "no damn Hawks fan is going to end up with these tickets". He sold them back to the Predators for future games next season. He avidly listened to every game, but after the sixth and final game, David had another setback and the family was called in for what would be their final time with him. David hung on until Monday morning, April 27th, before going to meet his Father.
I may not have known him for as long as some of the lucky friends and family that stayed by his side till the end, but he will forever be in my heart. I can never attend another game without hearing his banter about the team he loved with every ounce of his being. I can never hear the goal horn blast without thinking of a rasping cheer next to me and the high five to follow. And when the Predators ever lift the Stanley Cup, I know that David Pillow will be smiling a big, white-bearded smile down on his beloved team.
Thank you David Pillow for showing this fanboy what a true fan represents. You will be sorely missed.
With the mounting medical bills and the missed work of his wife and daughter over the last two months, the friend that introduced me to David Pillow has started a Go Fund Me account in his memory. Please give what you can to support the bereaved family of one of our own. GO PREDS!!!