October 23, 2008 in Nashville, Tennessee I fell in love with the game of hockey all over again.
As someone who has spent the last 15 years working in the hockey media it sure seems to me like there are almost daily dilemmas to deal with. Some are legitimate such as the ongoing debate about head-shots and the role of fighting in hockey. Some of the ongoing dramas seem to be a little bit over the top and sometimes even a little self-serving.
I was a given a little advice about covering the NHL when I first started and it’s times like this that I am often reminded about it:
“Hockey is a game and the NHL is a business. Never mix up the two.”
Rightly or wrongly often problems at the big league level are linked to the grassroots of the game. Take for instance fighting in hockey. There is very little fighting in the majority of hockey. It is mostly found in the older elite levels, yet every time we debate or discuss the topic it’s as if the outcome might fundamentally change the game from Timbits to the Olympics.
We spend a lot of time, and I mean a lot of time, debating, lecturing and theorizing about the ails of the game. Sometimes I just need a break. Sometimes I need to just sit and enjoy a game of hockey. This brings me back to Nashville, home to the Predators of the NHL, but better known as the home of the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, or Vanderbilt University and their outstanding basketball programs.
As someone who had done sports talk radio for many years I had a pretty good idea that Nashville was a lot of things but it isn’t a hockey town. How could it be? It is in the U.S. South, a non-traditional hockey market, and they didn’t sell out every game. All of this was just further “proof” that nobody cares about in hockey in Nashville.
Well I was partially right. They didn’t sell out the building the night I was there, falling about 4,000 short. The 12,000 fans that did attend the game that evening didn’t like hockey – they loved it. The building was rocking from the moment the teams stepped on the ice until ten minutes after the game ended. Even more impressive to me was the fact that almost every fan in attendance wore something with in the Predators colours or with their logo on it. The team was a decade old at this point, but I guarantee you that each and every player in team history was represented on the jersey of a fan in the arena. They had chants. They had songs. And you know what? They had fun! Talking to fans, staff and media at the game I was struck by how the only thing they were worried about was their team on that night. Period. End of story.
We, the collective we again, always seem to be worried about anything but the game. Possible relocation, supplementary discipline action, escrow and contract negotiations, sure, but do we spend enough time just enjoying the game as a game?
Hey I get it, there is important issues in the hockey and the NHL that need to be discussed and I will always be there to help facilitate those debates. But thanks to the good folks of Tennessee, at least one member of the media likes to just sit back and enjoy the game of hockey in Music City.