NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Sports commentators have noticed how loud and rowdy Nashville Predators fans are at games and they think it's a good thing.
“The crowd, they put me over the top in terms of appreciation was in Nashville before Game 3,” hockey analyst Pierre McGuire said.
“I think that's one of the non-traditional markets that people who pooh-pooh the non-traditional markets are making a mistake with because Nashville is becoming a really good hockey market,” he continued.
Since 1998, when the Predators launched their first season, team officials said fans have embraced the team. In recent years and even recent months, it has grown a lot more.
“Almost from day one [Nashville] embraced hockey,” Predators COO Sean Henry said. “There were some rough years obviously but that wasn't the fans fault there were some ownership transitions that's solidified now.”
Henry came to the Predators eight months ago. He told Nashville's News 2 the Predators are known for having the most enthusiastic fans in the National Hockey League.
“It's a passionate fan base all we say, is we need to grow that a little bit,” he said. “This is the loudest crowd in the entire league our players know it and more importantly the other teams know it.”
Before game 6 Sunday evening, the Bridgestone Arena blocked off 5th Avenue South for a block party for fans.
The plaza was filled with live music, a beat the Duck car fans could hit with a sledge hammer. There was even a place to get free haircuts.
Fans decked out in Predators filled the plaza gear before the game.
“I got my flag, my Tootoo whistle and my towel,” Dan Erickson of Hendersonville said. “Everyone says Predators cannot make it past the first round this is our year to prove them wrong.”
Ivan Santa Maria is a season ticket holder from Memphis. He is such a big fan he had Nash, the Predators mascot, appear at his wedding.
“I hope we knock them out,” he said wearing a yellow and blue Mohawk.
The Predators sold out their last three home playoff games and Henry said that is a win for the team and for the city of Nashville's economy.
“After the game, the streets are flooded with people,” he said. “Every restaurant, every bar is packed today.”
“This really unites the economy,” he continued, “everyone connects on something.”
Tickets for the Round 2 playoff series are for sale now.
- April 24, 2011: Preds make history, defeat Ducks 4-2