If extraterrestrial aliens ever landed on Earth and I was tasked with confusing them to the point of allowing a counter-attack against their invading force, I would immediately show them hockey. Not the sport, but the comment sections.
Hockey is super great because it’s fast paced and has more than a few high-pressure moments every single game. But it’s pretty lame because a bunch of internet tough guys have taken it upon themselves to draw arbitrary lines on the map of North America in order to decide where hockey should or should not be played.
“Hockey doesn’t belong in the south!” yells the man with 7 identical selfies in his profile pictures folder on Facebook because he can’t figure this internet stuff out. Meanwhile, this man has sent no fewer than 25 tweets @ESPN complaining about a lack of hockey coverage.
What’s with this, honestly? Why do the same people who want to geographically limit this game complain that national networks don’t afford it the spotlight? Hockey is great! That’s why I want it to succeed all over this great nation of ours.
Nashville hears you. Nashville doesn’t care. Nashville embraces their “non-traditional” status in the best way. They use college football style chants to unsettle visiting goalies, they offer preference to locals in ticket purchases, and most of all, they embrace their “Nash Vegas” title. Hockey is an entertainment industry, and the Predators are more than happy to let that work, while certain, more “traditional” markets would rather the team just put their nose to the grindstone and put in a shift.
In a blockbuster of all blockbusters, Nashville’s Very Good GM David Poile landed superstar PK Subban in a one for one trade for Shea Weber. Weber is certainly good, but he’s no Subban. And the prodigal son landed in his rightful nesting place. Nashville is an entertainment town. They love superstars. They embrace larger than life personalities, and PK Subban to Nashville was a match made in heaven.
And now the NHL’s biggest stage is going somewhere it has never been, and somewhere it’s offices didn’t know they needed it to be. Nashville is uniquely positioned on the map. It’s almost like a link between the north and the south. It’s a destination. It’s a place people want to be.
David Poile deserves an immense amount of praise for his patience to stick with his guys and his willingness to jettison dead weight for unproven but promising talent to improve his team. For my money, however, Nashville ought to build a statue of Poile for building a hockey culture in Nashville the right way. He didn’t stick his neck out to hold on to “his guys” like David Legwand and Martin Erat when he could flip these diminishing properties for guys like Filip Forsberg and Calle Jarnkrok (seriously how did he make that happen?)
Nashville has an expertly constructed roster, a fanbase hungry for a moment to explode, and a face of the franchise they’ve desperately sought for a decade. Hockey in the south is the new normal, and David Poile, PK Subban, Pekka Rinne, and Colton Sissons made it happen.
And if SEC football has taught me anything, it’s that having more of these people in hockey arenas can only be a good thing for USA Hockey going forward.