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The Weekender: My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys

NHL All-Star Winter Park Nashville 2016 - Day 1 Photo by Frederick Breedon IV/Getty Images

This is a unique time in Tennessee for sports. The Grizzlies are in the midst of a reckoning, the Vols may have finally hired their football coach, the Titans and Preds both sit atop their divisions, and the mayor’s office is pushing hard for the MLS expansion bid. And that’s all just this week.

The Preds are flexing on their opposition even without Ryan Ellis, Scott Hartnell, and now Ryan Johansen who left the game after 40 minutes against Vancouver. People are buying in on this team, and they’re buying in on the experience. The TV product is getting better as well, and has taken a strong step forward with the addition of Lyndsay Rowley, and now Chris Mason. With the current NHL streaming package, the team’s TV product is a great window into the culture of the team to an outsider. Newly minted fans in areas like Georgia, East Tennessee, and all over the Tennessee Valley are being treated to a TV product that’s well produced and well cast. Let’s give some credit to Willie Daunic, who is improving year by year in his role as he replaces someone that’s darn near impossible to replace in the hearts and minds of Preds fans.

Let’s talk about Pete Weber and Terry Crisp.

If you haven’t had a chance to read this yet, please do: Dynamic Duo of Weber, Crisp Taught Nashville How to Love Hockey.

Pete Weber and Terry Crisp deserve a great deal of credit for this franchise making it through the lean years. Pete & Terry tend to get overlooked in the annual batch of “Nashville is a hockey town” articles posted by national folks, but folks from here who were subjected to boring rudimentary hockey know how important those two were. Pete Weber manages to describe the hectic action without coming across as tedious or blubbering, and Terry Crisp has a sense of humor worthy of your favorite family member that you actually wanted to listen to.

With Crisp pivoting to an analyst role and Weber now the radio play-by-play announcer, the TV product is now left in some younger but capable hands with Daunic and Mason. Pete Weber is now working with Hal Gill, and Pete hasn’t lost a step by the sound of it.

Neither Terry Crisp nor Pete Weber are in the Hockey Hall of Fame. We could argue whether or not they’ll ever get in, but it’s hard to deny their contributions to this market.

Here’s something I would love to see: the Predators always have a game that’s close to the Christmas holiday (the NHL surrenders the viewers to the NBA on December 25th). If we were to have one game a year with Pete & Terry back on the call, it would fit well on the television as an excuse to get your in-laws and family to shut the hell up. They might learn something.

We learned a lot from Pete & Terry over the years, and they’re worth remembering as part of the cast that kept interest in this team through the rough patches.

During Laviolette’s first season in Nashville, he damn near perfected the rage timeout. Much of what he had to do as a coach is to retrain this team on how to play a close game, and when the effort is not being shown... he called a timeout to yell at them. That stupid challenge rule put a halt to it during his second season, so we haven’t seen it in a while.

Monday marked a glorious reprise of the Laviolette Rage Timeout. It paid off immediately.

David Backes screwed the Bruins by trying to force the play while offside, surrendered the puck to Roman Josi, and could only look on helplessly as Forsberg scored on poor Tuukka.

Kevin Fiala may be taking “that step” this season. He’s seeing the play better, he’s gained a new confidence playing beside the seasoned Kyle Turris and the speedy Craig Smith, and he’s got a better understanding on the NHL. To top that off, he scores some crazy goals. His tally against the Bruins is only surpassed by his humble celebration. He felt bad for scoring instead of passing to Smith, but credit Chara for taking away the pass.

Okay, he probably didn’t feel that bad. He picked a corner on Ben Bishop the next night. Nashville has needed a strong left-handed shot with the loss of James Neal and the absence of Scott Hartnell.


If you follow the NFL, you know who Vontaze Burfict is. He’s a sociopath wearing pads. He’s scary. He’s been scary. He was scary in college. One of my favorite college football photos ever is this:

USC v Arizona State Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

His personality has only been enhanced in the mercenary league that is the NFL. Burfict has a reputation that even the officials take note of. And the officials watch him like a hawk. According to Vontaze and his teammates, they watch him too hard.

If you watched Monday Night Football, you would’ve witnessed one of the most violent games in recent memory.

The NHL has its own troubles with the same type of characters. But let’s be honest: does the NHL really keep an extra eye on the Corey Perry’s and Brad Marchand’s of the league? You’d be hard pressed to prove that they do.

This is where the NHL messes up, and lets games go from intense to uncomfortable. Did you see Perry last Satruday night? Were you already trained to watch out for him? If so, you would’ve caught him leaping into the pile after Ekholm got boarded.

Were you watching out for Nick Ritchie? If you remember last spring, you should have.

Yes, that same shitty player made another shitty decision in an intense game.

Ritchie has a reputation as well, having been suspended earlier this calendar year. Whether or not he sees any further discipline aside from a two-minute minor is looking more and more doubtful. And that’s shameful. When a player is basically a colostomy bag sporting a jersey, he should be watched harder by the officials. It’s not that hard.

Let’s also not give Matthew Tkachuk a pass. He’s a pain in the ass, and just because his dad was a good pain in the ass, that shouldn’t give Matthew a pass for being a pain in the ass. Keith Tkachuk wasn’t this high on the Sean Avery scale. It would be real easy for us to sit back and say “I bet Matt watched his dad and other players get away with this shit and thought he could take it up a level.” While it may not be fair to Keith and his family, Matt’s antics are bad. He’ll get a pass from some of the old guard, but no one under 50 wants to see this.

The NHL isn’t honest with itself about its own product. It’s a violent game, and the players & refs have accepted that it’s “too hard to police”. It’s not, folks. With cameras everywhere and sensors attached to the players’ bodies, nothing is impossible if the NHL wanted to do something about. If the league wanted to raise scoring and make the game more “fun”, they would enforce their own rules. In what sport do you get a slap on the wrist for attacking a player after the whistle because the player scored on you? Hockey. That’s it. The NHL chooses to let shitheels be shitheels for reasons we’ll never understand. We deserve better.

It’s not like any of these antics by Perry or Ritchie matter, because the bullshit organization in Anaheim is the personal property of Pekka Rinne.

Patrick Marleau is fitting in nicely as the team grandpa in Toronto. This isn’t so much of a quote, but apparently Marleau is a man of action.

Mean ol’ Marleau picking on kids still on their ELCs. Cold.

What you’re about to read is from a real article written on a real newspaper’s website.

We were grain farmers. Without any livestock of our own to care for, Sunday’s were the one lazy day of the week that we almost always had. The day previous would have been spent at the rink, but unless we had a tournament that spanned the weekend, Sunday morning was quiet.


As the sun climbed hesitantly above the flat, frozen Saskatchewan horizon, the smell of breakfast would waft up the stairs. Mom was the cook in the house. But Sundays were all Dad and his famous pancakes. The best ones, ever. When it was time to get up, Dad’s footsteps would creak across the living room floor, to the foot of the stairs. There, he would stop, and whistle “I’ll call Rusty”, the theme from The Friendly Giant. The signal given, we kids would throw back the covers and race down the break-your-neck-steep stairs in our circa-1911 farmhouse, and claim our seats around the table.

This sounds like the beginning of a crummy holiday movie your parents goaded you into watching with them. It worked, because of the three channels you could pick up in your circa-1912 farmhouse with a tin roof next to the railroad tracks west of Nashville... one of them had “Murder, She Wrote” on in prime time and dad wasn’t having it.

The conversation would almost always centre around the game we all watched together on Hockey Night in Canada the night before. It was a pretty healthy exchange, as I recall, my sister participating, too. The six of us, without benefit of U-Tube or any other kind of replay, would break down the game by memory. We remembered who assisted on which goals. That Tiger Williams both fought Dave Schultz and rode his stick in the same game. That Bobby Clarke jabbed Brian Glennie a good one, in the you-know-what’s.

The “U-Tube” is where the German’s launched the U-Boats from, right?

The radio would give some highlights from the other games. No Sports Desk of any kind existed. Eventually, one of us would go outside, knock the snow off the mail box, bring in the newspaper, and read out all of the box scores. My brother and I would debate who was the greatest player in the NHL. He contended it was Gilbert Perreault. I said it was Bobby Orr. Discussion would ensue. We would laugh, we would shout, we would boo, we would howl. It was a good time.

I’ll skip the rest of the sepia-toned crap and get right to the “shaking my fist at crowd” moment.

Fast-forward to this morning. As the sun slid over the choppy horizon of the Pacific West Coast, I sat down at the kitchen table, took my first few sips of coffee, and then started to flick through Twitter, to see what was said about the Oilers game (you know, the 6-1 turned 7-5 one) the night before? Yeah, that one.

It is odd how life works out sometimes. All these years later, I now look at what other folks thought of what I wrote. One said Laurent Brossoit should have received “a Minus-1” grade for his performance. Another wondered if I thought Brandon Davidson would be claimed by Edmonton off waivers. I did. He was.

We can see where this is going. Judging by his social media posts, he’s a bit angered by the folks going after the Oilers’ backup goaltender. The author goes from the homogenized world of relying on newspapers and CBC radio into the world of Twitter, where everyone has a megaphone. It’s like being on the highway and approaching traffic with no exit in sight. But we’re committed. Let’s ride on.

You may have noticed that I tend not to call people names in my articles. I openly cheer for the team I love, while critiquing their play. I’m not the guy who publicly calls others out. And if I have a bad thing to say about another media person, I keep it to myself. Those who lives in glass houses ought not…well…you know the rest.

That is because I grew up in a simpler, more respectful time. We talked about hockey because it made us happy, not because it made us mad. We understood every man who made the NHL was good, and none were “trash”. We felt lucky to have a TV and be able to watch our heroes. And we did it all because we loved it. It made us feel good.

Not sure how that tweet got in there. Oops.

Hockey riots date back to the “good ole days” too. In 1955, Montreal rioted over the suspension of Maurice Richard. I have no doubts that the prairie was gorgeous back then, but sports fans have always been irrational. The trouble is now we have more ways to talk to each other.

After Shea Weber, is the James Neal return to Nashville the most fan-anticipated player return in Preds memory?


Ryan Suter, absolutely. The game ops played Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” during the Wild intro, and the crowd got to Suter later in the game. He took a penalty late in the game, and his face was more red than normal. It was the first time I’ve seen the designed harassment of one player work that well since I was in high school, and the student section made the point guard from Stewart County cry.

We didn’t have much to look forward to that year, so it stuck out.

If you could travel to one city for a Preds roadie, where would you go?

Taking into account the city as a destination, arena reputation, game expectation, etc…


I’d go with Colorado, mostly because there’s plenty of Nashville fans that make the trip, the food/beer is great, and the arena is still kinda nice. It’s also in one of my favorite cities. I haven’t been to Denver since 2009, and I’ve been craving to go back ever since. I’m not one for the sticky green stuff, but there’s plenty there that I like to do. Downtown Denver is compact and full of things to eat, drink, and be merry about.

Side story: I got let go from my job in 2009, and was dealing with some terrible anxiety due to my job, weight gain, and bad social situation. I got in my truck and just drove. I left on Sunday night from Lynn Haven, FL and caught the sunrise in Austin, TX. I made it to Denver a couple of days later. When you’re driving to Gatlinburg or Chattanooga from Nashville, you can see the hills turn into mountains as the rises & falls get more drastic. If you drive from Kansas to Denver, it’s like you’re on a gentle escalator that ends in Denver... and then you see the mountains. If you dare driving down to New Mexico from Denver, the Rocky Mountains frame Interstate 25 perfectly. I’m pretty sure I saw the same mountain in New Mexico for an hour.

Epilogue: I drove 30 straight hours home, including a 90 minute nap on the side of the interstate in Shreveport.

Number two on the list would be Florida. The area is right next to Sawgrass Mills, the most “bizarre yet good” shopping mall I’ve been to. It’s also right next to the Everglades. Flights to FLL are cheap, and hotels are abundant. Cuban breakfast food is something my body wants every day.

Who's our most underrated fighter?

After seeing Forsberg getting into it last night, I wondered how he’d fare in a scrap. Anyone on our team that rarely fights, but can still throw down when needed?


The one guy people should be more afraid of is Mattias Ekholm. He’s 6’4’’, and looks crazy when he gets mad. While the reach advantage isn’t as big of a factor in hockey fights compared to boxing, Ekholm still has the size to work over a small opponent. Plus, he’s the best kind of crazy when he gets mad; he’s “smart crazy”.

What are some areas where Predators fans have rose colored glasses on? In all things Stadium experience, playoff chances, contract situations, stadium food, GM capability, Coach capability, or player capability what is something you see Predators fans think the organization is great at but really isn’t at all. Also could be something we think the organization is good at but it’s really easy to be good at: Like Miller Lite advertising the crap out of "triple hops brewed" when almost every beer uses three types.


Every hockey fan thinks their own team’s prospects are better than they are. That’s not exclusive to Nashville. Bridgestone Arena gets plenty of love, so that does validate our own opinions on game experience, fan participation, etc.

Preds fans aren’t as nice as we’d like to think we are. Nashville is a pretty tough place to play, and a pretty tough place to catch a game as a visiting fan anymore. That’s a “good problem”, as far as I’m concerned. The sinks in Bridgestone Arena that were installed a few summers ago are specifically designed to handle non-liquid material without clogging. So be nice and say thanks when you see that overweight drunken Midwesterner puking his/her guts out into a sink during the TV timeout in the third period. They helped bring upon change.

Nashville’s defense is great at creating chances on offense, but they aren’t playing particularly great without the puck this year. Some of this will get better when Ryan Ellis returns, but we say that every week. At some point... stuff has to get better organically. I’d like to see the team play with the puck during the entire game.

Would the Preds make a college type committee selected final 4?

What team would get selected that would be most controversial?


They could, it depends on how the committee views St. Louis. Nashville shut out the Blues in St. Loo, so it would be tough to have them get in over the Preds.

Who would the committee be? If Barry Melrose is on it, we’re in. That guy is buying in pretty hard on Nashville.

what is the better grilled sandwich between the two:

Grilled cheese, or Grilled peanut butter and jam?

if you haven’t made a grilled PB&J, then…big red reference


I’m sure a grilled PB&J is good, but a grilled cheese is more versatile. I make mine with capicola (it’s spelled 4 different ways, at least) on Italian bread. I don’t get the big red reference, but I do know about Bowling Green a bit. The White Squirrel Brewery is a fun place, but their food menu is chock fulla bizarre “food truck” food. They have a burger with PB&J on it. One of my big rules with burgers involves oil content. That’s where people mess up. Too much oil means a messy burger, and that’s not great when you’re trying to eat in public.

Other than high profile locations (Example: Opryland hotel) What are some other fun Holliday ideas in Nashville for out of towners. Looking to make a weekend out of it for me and the girlfriend


Inside the city limits? I’m a big fan of Cheekwood’s Holiday Lights festival. Truth be told, this isn’t a spectacular place during the holidays with the exception of things we make artificially beautiful.

We don’t get snow here... we get ice. If you watch enough hockey from other markets, you’ll see those Belle Tire ads. They make it seem like if you don’t have the right tires, your own survival will be called into question. I’ve only lived in warm weather, touristy places. I don’t plan on living in a place where the tires on my car are a life or death decision I have to make ANNUALLY. But that does demonstrate a fact: there are all kinds of snow tires out there for your purchase. Ice is an entirely different surface. They don’t drive on ice up there. We don’t drive on ice down here. And we get ice. That stunts the growth of any holiday traditions we have other than getting hammered on NYE downtown listening to A-list acts.

But like you, I do my best to plan and entertain during this season. It’s getting tougher as the city keeps growing and all the good spots are getting more congested. Simple is always good, and a good walk on a clear night is always a great idea. While it’s low-hanging fruit, plenty of us locals take the Ryman concerts during this time of year for granted.

Favorite barbecue rub?

Recipe (and bonus points) if homemade.

If anyone is looking to get into doing their own food more often, I cannot recommend Alton Brown’s Good Eats enough. The books, the shows, the internet videos... it’s all worth your time. There are too many cooks on TV who have every tool in the world in their 2500 square foot kitchen. Brown keeps it real. Here is his recipe.

If you’re looking to smoke a rack of pork ribs or a pork shoulder, keep it simple and let the wood do the work. Pork isn’t as dense as beef, so you can add in some pecan or fruit tree wood into your smoker and actually taste it. The sugars in the wood help flavor your cut. I use hickory, with a bit of pecan. Mustard is your friend, and don’t be shy with it. Coat the entire shoulder or rack with yellow mustard. If you don’t have the entire McCormick spice collection, just grab a martini shaker and load it up with some basic stuff: brown sugar (3 parts), chili powder (1 part), seasoned salt/creole seasoning (1 part), onion power and/or garlic powder (1 part). If you want it spicier, add some jerk seasoning. The mustard forms a seal, and when you cut open the ribs... you might hear a “ksst” sound.

Protip: remove the membrane from your ribs. Costco sells ribs that already have the membrane removed. Check with the butcher to make sure the membrane is removed, or don’t leave it on when you cook it. It’s horrible for you.

Don’t forget to brine your pork shoulder. I use pickling salt (a finer salt) and molasses. This creates a seal on the surface area of the meat, and locks in the moisture. You’ll notice that if you have leftovers and your barbecue isn’t dried out. You won’t need barbecue sauce.

How many Preds get 30 goals this year?


Does Forsberg break 80 points this season?


I could see two Preds cracking 30 goals, especially if Craig Smith keeps playing this passionately. Filip Forsberg is getting 30+, and could eclipse 70 points if Johansen stays healthy and keeps shooting. The style that Nashville plays does lend itself to transition goals, and that power play is looking rather sharp. Sure, 80 points is possible, but I trust him getting over 70.

With the news that Russia is now banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics

Who should be considered the favorite for the hockey gold medal?

George Woodard

Ha, Russia is so screwed. I hope it’s okay to love the Russian style of hockey, enjoy the Russian players, know they contributed more than their share to get this game out of the dark ages.... and still laugh at them.

Sweden and Finland always do well in these tourneys, and their leagues are permitted to send players. I trust Finland more than Sweden.

With Samuel Girard gone...

… which defense prospect currently in our system will be our next NHL regular?


I wish Jack Dougherty was maturing faster. Dante Fabbro is the safe bet to crack the roster, but Alex Carrier is further along. His ceiling may not be as high as Fabbro.

  • Pekka Rinne has been good when he’s had to be, but the support he’s getting at the other end has to make the big fellow smile. This is especially true at home. In the regular season games played at home since the beginning of last season, he’s 32-7-7 with a 91.83 save percentage. Plenty of credit needs to go to Laviolette, who has shown a real knack for matching up his lines.
  • Chris Stapleton’s new album is very good.
  • Friday’s night game seemed a bit odd, the Knights do a great job of sucking the air of the building while managing not to look like the Minnesota Wild under Mike Yeo. Full credit to Malcolm Subban, but the Preds didn’t make him look superhuman.
  • Tuesday night was a night we’ll look back on as an important one if this season keeps rolling the way it’s been. We saw a great performance from Juuse Saros when he needed to show up. We’ve been rumbling about Anders Lindback, and how Saros hasn’t been showing the same level of play we saw early last year. Little Bear answered the bell, and survived a barrage at the start of the second period that enabled the onslaught on Ben Bishop. Pontus Aberg looked a bit more in sync with his linemates, and Cody McLeod proved useful. Road points are always a bit sweeter, especially when they’re the product of some good play by the role players.
  • Speaking of Dallas, Ben Bishop has not played well against Nashville during his tenure. He has only one win in seven starts against the Preds. A playoff series against him might be cool. Just keep that in mind.
  • We all would like to see the Preds adopt a more possession friendly style at the end of games rather than playing Secret Service hoping to ice the puck until the clock runs out.
  • It was fun to see James Neal come back to town. It would’ve been real easy for him to pull a Jeff Carter and get upset about being traded from a team with generational talent down the middle to a team without a real #1 center. Neal played hard for Nashville, and his confidence rubbed off on other players. I have trouble seeing Nashville go on the run through the West last year without the stellar play and leadership from James Neal during the playoffs. Neal didn’t back down from Anaheim’s... dark arts. Neal broke St. Louis with that bizarre goal to go up 3-1. Neal helped set up Kevin Fiala for the goal that “changed everything”. His contract coupled with the team’s needs likely prevented him from being retained in Nashville, and that’s okay. Go get paid this summer, James.

On to the next one.