Nashville On Ice — Pass The Puck Y’all!!
— Carrie Underwood Fan (@CUnews4Fans) April 18, 2017
If you would have told me a few years ago there would be a National Hockey League team in Nashville, Tennessee, and not only that, but a successful one, I would have been hesitant. And that this team would be not only a hit with the resident of the area, but also country music stars, I would have said something like "get the puck out outta here!"
Hockey wasn't even in the first plan in Nashville. The city originally attempted to lure the oft-rumored moving Sacramento Kings of the NBA to town, but the Kings, who have entertained moving offers from about every city this side of Helike, balked at several offers from the city and finally the deal fell through. In 1995, the search continued, and soon rumors began swirling that the New Jersey Devils were going to relocate to Music City. The rumour began after the league offered what was essentially a bounty, a $20 million "relocation fee" to any team who would move their operations to Music City. The Devils were the first (and apparently only) team to respond, but their attempts to get out of their lease with the city of Newark failed, ending up in a restructuring of their lease.
The search continued until 1997, when an expansion franchise was granted to the city by the NHL; it has been a love fest at the now Bridgestone arena ever since. One of four expansion franchises granted in 1998, the Predators were the only one was a completed arena, and were the only ones who would begin play the next season. They would immediately become the smallest town to have an NHL franchise calling it home.
The team has always survived on their local fan base, through rumored moves and sales, including one in 2007, where a questionable business man from California named Will Del Boaggio, set up a website taking deposits on Luxury Boxes in the Sprint Center for the Kansas City Predators. Problem was, he didn't own the team.
Country music stars have flocked to the team since the start. One of the first billboards to go up after the franchise featured singer Amy Grant. Grant's husband, Vince Gill sits on the team's board, and has dat in as an announcer on several occasions. One of the very first season-ticket holders was singer Barbara Mandrell, who continues to own those seats to this day. Dierks Bentley, who grew up in the Phoenix, AZ, which is home to the Predators next playoff opponent, the Coyotes, makes ti to 10-12 Predators games every season since moving to Nashville in 2000. Bentley carries hockey equipment on his tour bus, so that he and band and crew members can play on the off-days. And the likes of Keith Urban, Martina McBride and newcomers High Valley, the love affair keeps getting stronger.
Of course the teaming is taking it up a notch for the playoffs. The two home games they played in the first-round sweep of their rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks in this year's playoff features a pair of very special guests to sing the National Anthem. Carrie Underwood, the wife of Predators star Mike Fisher sang the anthem before game 3, while Luke Bryan did the honors before game 4.
The 'Preds" can continue to expect this kind of Music City support in the future, as there are Country stars lining up to do the honors. The Predators are set to begin their second round playoff series tomorrow against the St. Louis Blues, in St. Louis. While the won't return home to Nashville until game 3 on Sunday, the Predators can bank on the support that Country music has for them. And you never quite know who's gonna show up to sing that game 3 anthem.
Here's hoping the Predators leave St. Louis singing the blues.