There is nothing that matches the excitement of playoff hockey in Smashville. Jay and I attended our first game on a whim in 2017 and keep going back for more. Of course last year, the playoffs looked a bit differently. The NHL shortened the season, allowed more teams into the post-season, and they played it all in “the bubble.”
Despite a later than usual season start time, the NHL is most on track for a standard season. Many teams, the Nashville Predators included, located in the USA have gradually increased game attendance. In Canada, hockey is currently being played without fans in the arenas.
This past Friday night, the Predators fought off the Carolina Hurricanes in game 3 of the series. The Canes went into the game up 2-0 in the series, and the Preds defeated them in double overtime. The energy coming from the crowd and through the TV was infectious. “We should go to Sunday’s game,” Jay suggested.
On Sunday, my dad turned 70 years old. Rather than choosing between missing the game and missing his birthday, we decided to load up the whole family (minus our matriarch who likes neither sports nor crowds) and head to Smashville. We told them how electric the crowd is during the playoffs, but I’m not sure it’s possible to overstate it.
Upon entering the arena, they gave us free game t-shirts and rally towels. My nephew ended up scoring an extra before the night was over. My brother-in-law made new friends while standing in line in the concourse. Throughout the game, my niece and nephew asked questions. I explained icing, offsides, and “time out” (aka going to the penalty box regulations. Safe to say, the number of Smashvillians has grown.
During one of the intermissions (best I remember between the end of regulation and the 1st overtime), I received a stress alert from my fitness watch. My stress levels peaked higher, for a longer sustained period than normal, and my Garmin suggested I try to calm down. That didn’t happen until well after the Preds won in the second round of overtime.
Tonight is do or die for the Preds. They are down 3-2 in a best of 7 series. A win tonight means game 7 in Raleigh and a chance to move on to the next round. With a loss, Smashville will grow quiet for the summer, before hockey begins again in October.
Puck-off* is at 9:30 PM Eastern time, so the chances are low that I’ll be able to stay awake until the final period. I’m hopeful, however, that the energy of Bridgestone Arena will help Nashville live to fight another day.
*My mother mixed up kick-off and puck drop to create my favorite hockey term. Jay worries it will make me sound hockey-stupid. I think it’s too cute to care, I’m going to use it anyway.