Wednesday, April 16, 2008

From the pages of Center Ice Magazine


Question: If a filled arena breaks out into a spontaneous, piercing roar but no one outside the building is willing to hear it, does it make a sound?

Answer: Apparently not.

Welcome to the dilemma that is the Nashville Predators.

It was a truly magical moment the night of April 3 at Nashville’s Sommet Center. The Predators were on the verge of clinching their fourth straight playoff appearance, which they did later that night with their victory and a Vancouver Canucks loss. At the time the Predators were clinging to a precarious 3-2 lead over St. Louis.

Then it happened.

During the final media timeout, over 17,000 fans stood up and started cheering. But this wasn’t just some fleeting moment of appreciation. Their cheering continued…louder and longer. The crowd had broken out into an unprovoked, ear-splitting roar that had rarely, if ever, been heard during the Predators’ 10-year history.

The tell-tale sign of an unforgettable sports moment is when its historical significance is realized in the moment. Sitting among the press corps that night at the Sommet Center, I knew this was something very special. Chills went down my spine as I realized I was experiencing perhaps the seminal moment in franchise history.

It was spontaneous, it was unexplainable, and – most importantly – it was real.

That moment may have signified a fan base finally and fully embracing its hockey team, a franchise nearly snatched from its city before the season had even begun.
Yet as special and memorable the moment was, an entire region outside the building failed to hear it.

This lack of recognition from everyone outside the loyal but smallish Predators fan base was just as deafening and equally measurable.

As the eighth-seeded Predators approached a difficult, yet not impossible, opening-round task of upsetting the top-seeded and President Trophy-winning Detroit Red Wings, the community at-large responded with a whimper, both in television ratings and ticket sales.

To be fair, trying to find the Predators on TV Рthrough the muddled mess of networks and times - was the equivalent of the clich̩ needle in a haystack. Additionally, the thought of buying tickets for a series in which the good guys were down 0-2 coming back to Nashville did not necessarily seem appealing. Game 3 did not sell immediately. In fact, it did not sell out until the morning of the showdown.

But here was the Predator faithful again during Game 3, letting loose a growl reminiscent of the regular season finale, practically willing the Predators to an unlikely 5-3 win.

Despite the fan and player heroics, one glaring problem remains: the Predators need more people shouting inside – and outside – the building, both with their voices and their wallets.
Otherwise the next generation of Predators fans will not experience the magical moments we did.

That’s because there won’t be a next generation of fans.


CraigD2599 said...

Freddy Shero said it best..."Win today and we skate together forever". He wrote that on a chalkboard before Game 6 of the 1974 Stanley Cup finals against the hated Bruins. They won, and Fred the Fog was right...they STILL live in my heart.
As you know Schaef...I am a Philly native. I discovered hockey because the Flyers won the Stanley cup in 73-74 and again in 74-75. Not only did I become a fan of the team I became a fan of the GAME. It was a lifelong love affair that culminated with 3 years playing at Liberty University, a 7 year coaching high school coaching career, (where I coached, among others, Mark Eaton) and enough addiction to the game to still be playing at 44 with no intentions of quitting yet.
The year before the Flyers won the cup, the attendance was around 9000. The next season after they won the first cup, the Spectrum sold out every game from then on. 17773 seats EVERY night. Now the Wachovia sells out every night with 19000 plus seats. But winning that cup is what started the fanaticism. What a lot of people forget is that the Flyers were a playoff tam for several years before winning the cup and still couldn't draw flies.
To this day...people of my vintage still hold those old Flyers in awe. Crispy was one of them and last year I met him at a golf fund raiser and even then, 32 years later, it was a thrill of a lifetime.
This team has the makings of that old Flyers team. Hard workers, a good goalie, tough physical play, and a dynamic announcing team. (Weber / Crisp is almost as good as Hart / Earle)
The Preds need to win a cup. I was ten when the Flyers first took the parade down Broad Street. Honestly I am getting emotional just writing about it right now. Half of the great memories I would have in the years afterwards were a direct result of the Flyers winning. I fell in love with a sport, played at an elevated level, and continue to have a deep love for the game. Remembering Bernie, Joe Watson, Bobby Clarke, Big Bird Don Saleski, Bob "The Hound" Kelly, and thinking about what those guys meant to my childhood is giving me chills.
One victory parade down Broadway culminating in a victory party at LP field, (like we did at JFK) and this team will be cemented in this towns collective psyche forever.
Nothing succeeds like success. Shero was right...if these guys win a cup, they will become ageless heroes in this town for eternity.

spark MAN said...

I'm THIS CLOSE to being done with the NHL after tonight. We can talk about trying to build a good thing with hockey in Nashville, but then the NHL has to go and screw things up as usual. It goes like this.....
-Preds/Wings Game 4 in Nashville
-Broadcast nationally on Versus
-In Huntsville at least, that means the game gets bumped to the sorry Fox Sports non HD channel
-Fox Sports happens to carry Braves baseball, too.
-Apparently, an April game between the Braves and Marlins is more important than a Stanley Cup playoff game involving a team 100 miles closer to us than the Braves, so the Preds/Wings ARE NOT ON MY TV!!!

I blame this squarely on the NHL. They have absolutely zero clue on how to market their sport. Instead of accepting their place in the American sports landscape, they resort to silly gimmicks to try and attract fans, which hasn't worked, and in the meantime allowed their sport to be shuffled to a wannabe sports network that is seen in about 50 homes nationwide. I didn't think it could get any worse than Tuesday night when, out of 5 playoff games, only 2 were on TV in the States(unless you shelled out the big dough for the Center Ice package of course), but tonight is worse.

The NHL is a joke of a league and tonight just proves once again why that is. I love the sport, but I hate the league.