The Other Side of Smashville

Nashville, TN, United States / The Game Nashville
The Other Side of Smashville

On February 28th at 2:00 PM the Nashville Predators hosted the Detroit Red Wings. As citizens of Nashville(or at least close by) we are all aware of how Bridgestone Arena is on game day. It is a very loud building with a very passionate fan base, both qualities intensify when the Red Wings come to town. But what is the game day experience like from the perspective of a Red Wings fan?
As a Red Wings fan of 23 years, I have witnessed some great games between Detroit and the Predators and have always had an enjoyable experience in “Smashville”. Today was no different. I arrived to the game roughly an hour early and the first thing you notice is the arena itself. Bridgestone Arena may not be as “tradition rich” as other NHL venues, but it may be the best place in the United States to take in a game. The building is clean and crisp and, to my knowledge, there’s not a bad seat in the house. As i got to my seat I began talking with some of the people sitting around me. While the Nashville fans still consider the match up a rivalry, some of the hatred of the Red Wings has seemed to wear off. Of course that can be attributed to a number of things, including the recent conference realignment, the youth movement in Detroit, and the Predators having their best season to date to name a few. While there is still something about a Nashville/Detroit game that makes Bridgestone Arena special, there’s more mutual respect between fans than before. During the player introductions the Red Wings starters were welcomed with the typical chorus of boos and “sucks” chants, nothing out of the ordinary for any NHL arena. Once the game began the home crowd and the Red Wings fans(who always travel well) began exchanging friendly back and forth chants urging on their respective teams. Thanks to a fair amount of opposing fans, the game had a similar feel as a high school football or basketball game where the student sections go back and forth with each other, on a much larger scale of course. As Detroit built their 2-0 lead the area settled down a bit but once Matt Cullen cut the lead to 1, the arena livened back up and remained loud until the end of the game. When Nashville took the lead, the arena exploded. When the Wings tied it and took the lead, Preds fans became that much louder supporting their team. Everything about the game day experience in Nashville is enjoyable, from the fans to the facility.
There is a reason visitors love the city of Nashville. That reason is the people. Almost everyone I came in contact with was friendly and hospitable, which is a bit strange considering how much hostility Preds fans have had towards the Red Wings. And when I did overhear bits of friendly chirping, it was game based rather than the misfortune of the city of Detroit(unlike other fan bases, looking at you Chicago fans). Predators fans have embraced hockey to an extent that many non traditional markets have not. Cities like Tampa Bay and Raleigh (Carolina) that have won cups continue to struggle in the game day experience and fan apathy departments despite their organizations best efforts. Atlanta(one of America’s largest sports markets) lost its team after just 11 seasons and Arizona looks as if its a matter of time before they relocate to Las Vegas or Seattle. But that wont happen any time soon in Nashville. Every game seems like a sellout and the product on the ice matched the level of their fans. With the growing passionate fan base, the NHL All Star Game coming to Nashville next season, and the Predators currently leading the NHL in points “Smashville” may soon need a new moniker, one that as a Red Wings fan is perhaps the highest compliment a NHL city can get: Hockeytown South. One day(perhaps as early as this summer) Lord Stanley’s Cup will be handed to the captain of the Predators. And when that happens, the Music City will erupt as a hungry fan base is finally satisfied.

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