The city of Nashville is known as the country music capital of the United States. The Music City pays homage to its grassroots background with destinations such as the Honky Tonk Highway, the Johnny Cash Museum and the Grand Ole Opry.
While the city has made its name through the sounds of plucked guitars and southern twang, it’s the sound of sharpened wood hitting rubber pucks captivating the residents lately.
The Nashville Predators are the talk of the town as the team is in the midst of a historic postseason run. The Predators entered the Stanley Cup playoffs as the final wild card in the Western Conference. They lost six of their last eight games of the regular season. Plus, they squared off against the West’s top team, the Chicago Blackhawks. Virtually every hockey expert predicted a quiet series win for Chicago, who beat Nashville in the playoffs in 2015.
They ended up throttling the top seed, sweeping the Blackhawks in four games. It was the first time in 23 years the number one seed was swept under the current playoff format. That series win put the Predators on the national spotlight as more people took notice of the team. While their recent success is helping build the brand, the Nashville Predators already do well in that department.
The Predators and their fans have embraced one another in the past four years. Since the 2013-14 season, the average attendance at Bridgestone Arena has risen each year. They sold out every home game in the regular season for the first time in franchise history. Every home playoff game has reached full capacity as well. Bridgestone Arena has done its part to create a homely atmosphere.
The Predators’ goal horn has sounded 143 times and counting this season. Each time it plays, Bridgestone Arena reverberates with Tim McGraw’s peppy lyrics laced with the edgy jams of The Black Keys. It salutes the city’s country roots while pumping up the home crowd. It’s a unique bond that’s hard to replicate.
The atmosphere earns praise from visiting fans too. They commend its respectful fans and the sweet aroma of southern comfort food. This type of branding embeds the Predators even further into the expansive heart and soul of Nashville.
Even if fans don’t make it to the game, they’re still watching. Newschannel 5’s Steve Layman reported that Nashville’s Game 3 win over the Saint Louis Blues drew a 9.4 rating in Nashville homes, the team’s highest ever. That means that 60 percent of Nashville residents tuned in on a warm Sunday afternoon to watch hockey. The fans have been excited about the Predators for some time. Now, it seems that their enthusiasm has reached a fever pitch.
General Manager David Poile deserves credit for spurring the Predators’ growth in Nashville as well. His defining moment came when he shipped captain Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for fellow defenseman P.K. Subban. Poile has looked like a swindler with the move, as Subban is enjoying a nice season with Nashville.
While he’s made a difference on the ice, he’s done even more impactful work for the city through his community service. His incredible work for charity has made him as beloved a person in Nashville as he still is in Montreal. It makes him and the team so easy to rally behind. Even citizens who aren’t into hockey can support Subban and the team through their philanthropy.
While the Predators have reached new heights in their popularity in the city, their hockey aspirations seek even greater goals. The franchise has yet to reach a conference final in 18 seasons of operations. They made a huge leap towards that on Tuesday night with a 2-1 win over the Blues to take a 3-1 series lead.
The full effect of Nashville hockey was on display. The Predators showed intense fights that put the smash in Smashville. After fighting through two periods, Ryan Ellis busted through with an absolute snipe on the power play at the five-minute mark. James Neal did the same eight minutes later. The crowd was in it down to the final second.
Nashville will always have country music as its main identity. However, for the foreseeable future, Nashville is the epicenter of playoff hockey. The Predators brand is growing exponentially, and they have plenty of room on the hype train.
“From Our Haus to Yours”