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Welcome Aboard: The Bandwagoner’s Guide to the Nashville Predators

We don’t really care why you’re here, we’re just happy you’re not wearing red.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-San Jose Sharks at Nashville Predators The Tennessean-USA TODAY Sports

Greetings fellow hockey fans, and welcome to your wonderful (and hopefully not temporary) experience as Nashville Predator hockey fans! If you haven’t fully committed yet, here are six quick reasons to join us:

  1. The Predators have P.K. Subban (Bonjour, Montréal!) who, aside from being one of the best defensemen in the NHL, is also one of the most generous and kind athletes in the world.
  2. You just want to root for the most handsome team in sports.
  3. Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson make up one of the best lines in hockey.
  4. With Pekka Rinne on Nashville’s roster, we have an old, lovable goalie (who doesn’t play for a New York team) to root for.
  5. Nashville has hands-down the best top-4 defensive group in hockey. It’s not even close. And I’m just talking about how handsome they are, not to mind how great they are at hockey, for which the above statement also holds true.
  6. Carrie Underwood’s husband is our captain (I’ve used this reason on my sisters to a 2/2 success rate).

Convinced? Good.

Whatever your reasons may be, here’s a quick guide to get you up to snuff on the Nashville Predators before any skeptical friends question your fandom. However, if they do, just say that you know more than the belligerently intoxicated Blackhawk bandwagoners assaulting security in Nashville. While their bandwagon has DUIs, we have hot chicken. Nashville 1, Chicago 0.

Below you’ll find some team history, insight on the current team, and the fan culture you’ll need to get you through the postseason.

A Brief History of the Predators

A late-90’s expansion team, the Predators have made hockey work in a nontraditional market. The team has made 10 of the last 13 playoffs and sold out every home game at Bridgestone Arena this season. General Manager David Poile has been with the club through its entire history, while head coach Peter Laviolette is only in his third season.

The Predators have faced their first round opponent, the Chicago Blackhawks, twice. Both were first round series that went to six games, with Nashville unfortunately losing both series while the Blackhawks would win the cup each postseason. Nevertheless, in 2015 the Predators actually outscored the Blackhawks over the course of their series. The current Predators team is significantly more talented than the 2015 team, so hopefully the Predators put it all together and finally finish the Blackhawks off.

Last season, the Predators upset the Anaheim Ducks in seven games before falling to the San Jose Sharks in seven games.

During this past off-season, they traded Captain and defenseman Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for P.K. Subban, one of the most exciting players in the world. While Subban is also a defenseman, he and Weber have very different skillsets: Weber is a slow-moving defenseman who hits both bodies and pucks hard, while Subban is a more complete, versatile player who makes dynamic plays and has an element of “swagger” when he skates. While Subban still certainly has a hard shot and can deliver nasty hits, he’s talented enough to rely on other options to help the Predators.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Montreal Canadiens
P.K. Subban warms up prior to his first game in Montreal as an opponent of the Canadiens.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

While adding a player of Subban’s caliber certainly helps the Predators, there was an adjustment time needed as his addition threw off a lot of chemistry and forced head coach Peter Laviolette to change up his defensive pairings. As a result, the first half of the season was pretty bad.

Nevertheless, the team began clicking in about mid-January and has been stellar in the second half of the season. There are numerous players who have the capability to just pop off and score a hat trick on the flip of a dime, so let’s get into them.

The Handsome Men’s Club

While every player on the roster has a story worth telling, let’s be perfectly honest: you just need to know five names so when your friends say “I bet you can’t even name five Predators!”, you’re covered. Therefore, I’ll give a few honorable mentions at the end, but here are the names you’ll be hearing broadcasters talking about all postseason (knocks on wood).

Viktor Arvidsson, #38, RW

Nashville Predators v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Perhaps even surpassing Pekka Rinne as the most lovable Predator, Viktor Arvidsson has become adored by the Nashville faithful for his unrivaled work ethic and unbridled joy for hockey. A workhorse skating just as hard to backcheck as forecheck, Arvidsson first became a household name by scoring an overtime goal in game six against San Jose to force game seven last season.

While Arvidsson was more of an afterthought in last season’s rookie campaign, the 24-year-old Swede was the surprise of the season, tying center Ryan Johansen for the team lead in points with 61. Similarly, he tied star left-wing and fellow countryman Filip Forsberg for the team lead in goals with 31. While Johansen scores with vision and Forsberg with a lethal wrist shot, Arvidsson scores by outworking every other player on the ice. He’s a coach’s dream player and has been an absolute delight to watch.

Roman Josi, #59, D

Nashville Predators v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

One of the more handsome members of the Handsome Men’s Club, Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi is the most underrated player in the NHL. While many fans don’t know his name, the native of Switzerland finished fifth in the Norris Trophy voting for the best defenseman in the league. That’s nine spots higher than another defenseman who’ll be coming up on this list.

Roman Josi is best known for his vision and game sense. A speedy defenseman, he is extremely well aware of when to utilize his speed and jump into an offensive rush. Similarly, he knows when he has to hang back to prevent a potential odd-man rush. His uncanny game sense is what has made him so integral to the Predators powerplay. Furthermore, he also only has 18 penalty minutes on the season despite leading the team in average time on ice per game, making him both a gentleman on and off the ice.

Filip Forsberg, #9, LW

NHL: Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Another one of Nashville’s collection of Swedes, Filip Forsberg is the owner of one of the most lethal wrist shots in hockey. After going through a remarkably unfortunate goal drought during the first half of the season, Filip Forsberg and the rest of the Predators all started to click in the second half of the season.

A now annual tradition, the month after January is called “Fil-bruary” in these parts. During February, Forsberg could walk into an antiques store and still find nothing but net. This February, Forsberg became the first NHL player in seven years to score hat tricks in back-to-back games. Tying Arvidsson for the team lead with 31 goals, this is a player that can explode and take over a game at any moment.

Pekka Rinne, #35, G

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The longest tenured Predator, the 34-year-old Pekka Rinne has been stealing games for the Predators his entire career. When he was younger, Rinne was making highlight reel saves every night, bailing out iterations of the Predators with much less talent than the current roster. Heck, in 2011-12 he started an astonishing 73 games. No Predator in franchise history has carried the team to success as much as Pekka Rinne.

While his age has perhaps slowed him down a little bit in recent years, he still posted an above average .918 save percentage this season. Moreover, he’s still shown his ability to elevate his level of play in big games. His game seven performance against Anaheim last season was perhaps his best game in years, denying the lethal Anaheim first line over and over despite them having point-blank shots. If the Predators beat the Blackhawks, Rinne will be a big reason why.

P.K. Subban, #76, D

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

In saving the most famous for last, P.K. Subban is a household name in the hockey world. Everyone knows of his electric play and exuberant personality. If someone has a microphone this postseason, it will find Subban eventually.

What makes Subban so good is his edge-work and uncanny protection of the puck. Sometimes, to understand how he makes a jaw-dropping play, you just have to watch his legs. If you have a child who wants to play hockey, have them watch his feet. There’s so much hockey to learn just by seeing how he is able to pivot and turn on a dime.

His ability to protect the puck is also world class. Numerous times this season, Subban has just skated around the entire offensive zone for fifteen seconds while the other team has been unable to strip him of the puck. He does an excellent job shielding the puck with his body and, once again, a lot of that comes down to his immaculate footwork.

However, the above descriptions aren’t even about his best trait: it’s his overwhelming generosity. Back when he played for Montreal, Subban pledged over $10 million to the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Unlike other athletes who just donate money, Subban actually went to the hospital to spend time with these children. He fostered real relationships with these ill children and, despite being traded to Nashville, has continued those relationships. Before playing Montreal this year, Subban was joined by Roman Josi and Mike Fisher on a hospital visit, marking the first time teammates ever joined Subban on one of his many hospital trips. Finally, he has continued his community work here in Nashville, including organizing a Christmas pen pal celebration between some of the children in Nashville and those in the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

Really, more than being a world-class hockey player, P.K. Subban is a world-class human being. The Nashville hockey community is blessed to have role models such as Subban, Fisher, Rinne, and Josi for kids to look up to.

Honorable Mentions

Other good Predators to know include Mike Fisher, Ryan Johansen, and James Neal. Mike Fisher, the captain, is married to Carrie Underwood, so that’s often a talking point among those who aren’t Predator fans. Ryan Johansen is the first line center between Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson. He was traded to Nashville from Columbus last season and has been nothing short of stellar, tying Arvidsson for the team lead in points this season. He was also named one of Nashville’s most beautiful people last year, so yeah, he’s kind of a big deal. Finally, James Neal, love him or hate him, posted his ninth consecutive 20+ goal season. He still may be considered a pest by some, but he’s our pest, so we love him.

Fan Culture Terms and Traditions

Throwing a Catfish on the Ice: A tradition started in response to the Red Wings throwing an octopus on the ice, you’ll see at least one catfish, if not more, hit the Bridgestone Arena ice this postseason. It’s kind of a big deal.

Phoenix Coyotes v Nashville Predators - Game Four
Catfish. So hot right now. Catfish.
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Handsome Men’s Club: As used earlier in this guide, this title is used interchangeably with “the Nashville Predators.”

The TV Timeout Ovation: While many teams’ fans may sour when the team needs some help (see: Boston, Philadelphia), us Nashville fans know that we have to do our part to pick the boys up. When the game is on the line. the fans in Bridgestone Arena will all rise and give the Predators a spontaneous standing ovation during a third period TV timeout. Because of the continuous nature of playoff overtime, these ovations will often continue as late as they need to be.

Smith-ing it: A term to describe shooting the puck unnecessarily high over the net.

Handsome/60: While “fancy stats” such as Corsi and Fenwick are all the rage with the analytics part of the hockey community, us Predator fans prefer evaluating our team with this fancy stat. I would say that the team leaders are Roman Josi, Ryan Johansen, and P.K. Subban, but picking a top three from The Handsome Men’s Club is a difficult task.

Arvy Hustle: This term is used to describe how hard Viktor Arvidsson hustles. Us fans don’t limit the usage of this term to Arvidsson, but it’s hard to find players who can match Arvidsson’s intensity.

“(Insert complaint about the fourth line)”: We do this a lot, especially if Cody McLeod is playing.

Names to never mention - Suter, Vesey, and Radulov: Just don’t.

Conclusion

The Predators are an exciting, lovable team with an abundance of talent and personality. Nevertheless, they’re an underdog because they have a hard time putting it all together. If there a dark horse to pull for these playoffs, Nashville fits the bill. If they can put their talent together and play complete games, the Blackhawks are going to be in for a much more nerve-wracking series than their fans will lead you to believe. And let’s be honest, nobody wants the Blackhawks to march through the playoffs again.

So everyone, say it with me one time as your bandwagon ticket is punched: “GO PREDS GO!”

Carolina Hurricanes v Nashville Predators Photo by Sanford Myers/Getty Images