As writers/journalists/bloggers/whatever you choose to call us here at OTF...it’s our job to objectively break down each Predators game. We analyze what’s going right and what’s going wrong. We pore through game film and stats, debate lineup decisions, and discuss whether a pedal tavern single-handedly saved the Preds’ opening game.
But before any of us wrote a single word for this website, we were Predators fans. And every once in a while, we have moments where we have to sit back and simply be a fan.
Today is one of those moments.
Today, the Predators will play the Dallas Stars in the Winter Classic. It’s the first one featuring two teams from the south, and the furthest south the NHL has ever hosted an outdoor game.
And how cool is that? This was an event created to celebrate the NHL’s heritage and showcase stars like Sidney Crosby, Pavel Datsyuk, and Alex Ovechkin. And today, we get to watch the Nashville Predators — OUR Nashville Predators — on the national stage in the league’s marquee event.
Think about how improbable at the start of the past decade. When the 2010s started, the Predators had never won a playoff series (they had a 6-16 record in the postseason, and had yet to win a game on the road.) The team was just a handful of months removed from a near-relocation, and despite boasting a new ownership group, their future in Nashville was anything but a sure thing. Nashville Arena (Bridgestone wouldn’t attach their name to the building until February of 2010) was sparsely-filled many nights, with the Predators towards the bottom on all of the league’s attendance reports.
Imagine if someone told you then that this same team would go on to become one of the league’s most talked-about franchises just one decade later.
That franchise will be front-and-center today in front of 85,000 fans. According to The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro, more 20,000 of those fans will be coming from Nashville, the most from a visiting fanbase in any Winter Classic. Our social media has been flooded with pictures, videos, and stories of Preds fans taking over the Dallas area.
These scenes bring back memories of 2017. Lower Broadway morphed into a sea of gold on gamedays. You couldn’t walk a full block in Nashville without seeing a Preds banner hanging in the window of a business, or getting a “Go Preds” from a passerby. Even friends or co-workers who had little-to-no previous interest in hockey started every conversation with a mention of P.K. Subban or Pekka Rinne.
The city fondly refers to that whole stretch as a giant party. But for die-hard Preds fans, it was a celebration of how far we’ve come as a franchise; a moment of pride after more than 15 years’ worth of heartbreak and obscurity.
That’s what today should be.
Wherever you are today — whether you’re in the crowd at the Cotton Bowl or watching from the comfort of your couch with a bottle of Pedialyte in hand — do yourself a favor. Cherish the day. When the Predators skate through that pyro and onto the ice, make a mental note of how you feel. Recognize your goosebumps and embrace that feeling of child-like awe we used to feel just by being in the arena.
There will be plenty of time down the road to digest all the news of the day, fret over the downs of the team, and debate all the... umm... interesting coaching decisions. Who knows, that time may happen right after the game depending on how the game goes.
But for just a moment, let’s put all that aside and celebrating being a fan of Predators hockey.
Let’s make this our day.
How to Watch
- Puck Drop: 1:00 P.M. CST
- TV: NBC
- Radio: 102.5 The Game