Friday, January 13, 2017

A Fun Night In Smashville

This past Tuesday for the first time in the NHL's 16-17 season, I went to Nashville to see a Nashville Predators game. Last year I went with my friend, Mark, and I really enjoyed it. This time I decided to go by myself for the first time. 

Now I don't want get into the details of why I don't mind going to places and do things by myself. Yes, I've thought a lot about it and I do have some uneducated theories. But that's a different discussion for a different post. This time around I want to share with you what a fun time I had on my excursion to Nashville. 

Because there was supposed to be some rainy weather and I had some things to do in Bowling Green before hand, I left my house about 2 o'clock and headed down I-65 about 3:15. 

On the way down the rain was at a minimum but the wind was really howling. The trip got off to an exciting start when I stopped at the Pilot truck stop in Franklin, KY. While I was pulling in, I slowed down, hesitating to decide whether to go left or right take past the pumps and into a parking space. Just then a wind gust caught the message section of the Wendy's sign. It came crashing down about 10 feet to my left, smashing into pieces as it hit the ground. My car wasn't damaged at all but it could have been had I not hesitated. 

I got to the Nashville area a little earlier than I had anticipated. I didn't want to head into the downtown area and then not have anything to do before the arena doors opened at 5:30. So I decided to take a quick side trip to Opry Mills Mall. I made a quick stop at the Lego store and the calendar kiosk. You know the one that pops up in every mall before Christmas and stays til mid January? 

I bought my wife a daily calendar that has a small picture for her to color every day. It was just my way of saying "thank you" for allowing me to go to the game. 

I left the mall and headed down Lebanon Pike into downtown Nashville; arriving about 5 o'clock. In this picture you can see the arena tower off to the left. 

Even though it was going to cost me $25, for convenience, I decided to park in the arena garage. With my wallet out, I pulled into the driveway stopping to pay. "You looking for a handicap spot?" the attendant asked, seeing the sign hanging on my rear view mirror. I responded in the affirmative. "There's one on level 3 and it won't cost you a thing", he responded. What a lucky break. It was a great start to a very good night. 

Once I left the garage I only had to walk about 20 feet to get to the arena's back entrance. I only had to wait about 5 minutes for the doors to open. 

I went through the security check and metal detector with no problems. My ticket was on my phone so the ticket taker scanned it and printed out a stub for me. She also gave me a scratch off card as part of a Tennessee Lottery promotion that was going on that night. I put it in my pocket for later.  

I walked down a couple sets of stairs and came out on the main concourse which was good. But I was on the exact opposite side of the building from my seat in section 115. 

A little further down the concourse was the set where the Fox Sports South channel did their intermission broadcasts. I saw that they were already taping their pregame show. 

They were interviewing someone I knew was famous but didn't recognize at first. 

After watching them for a minute or so I realized it was country singer, Vince Gil. 

I stood there watching them waiting for the chance to ask Mr. Gil for a picture once he finished. But I felt a little awkward standing there watching by myself. I walked over to a small little Predators merchandise kiosk just a few feet away. I started looking at the clothes just to pass the time. I saw a really nice hoodie that I thought I might buy if I got cold during the game. I asked the clerk how much it was. $25 was not a bad price.  

As I was putting it back on it's display, I looked up and saw Vince Gill walk past me. He had left the interview and was now walking with purpose down the concourse. I called out to him, but he must not have heard me cause he kept on walking. Oh well, I thought, an opportunity missed but at least I had a story to tell. 

I had quite a bit of time before the game started and to get to section 115 I had to walk around the concourse. So I just took my time getting around to it. I just liked looking around at the variety of fans coming in and their interaction with the ushers, Bridgestone employees, and those working at the food stands and the other booths set up. One thing I noticed was that there were a lot of "official" looking guys in suits & ties standing in various places talking. I don't know what that was all about. Maybe it was some kind of security. Anyway the walk around was an enjoyable people watching time.  

Once I got to section 115 and I gave my ticket to the usher so he could allow me to get to my seat. I got another surprise that was of my own making. The usher pointed out that my ticket was for a seat on the exact other side of the rink. Since I couldn't walk down the aisle and across the ice (or at least not if I wanted to stay in the building and watch the game), I had to walk back around to right where I had entered the concourse initially. 

Resolved about what I had to do I decided to enjoy the walk back. I picked up a t-shirt and a flimsy backpack from the Geico booth I passed. I stopped at the Tennessee Lottery prize redemption table to scratch off the card I was given on my way in. The prize I won was $10 off the online purchase of Tennessee Symphony concert tickets. Wow, was I lucky or what???

I bought a hot dog and a drink then went to find my seat and relax a bit before the game started. Whenever I go to a place or event I'm excited about its always a bit surreal slightly overwhelming when I get that moment when I realize; "Wow, I'm finally here." Walt Disney World and Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati are a couple of places this happens. Bridgestone Arena is another. This was my first view. 
Once I finished my hot dog, I realized that it was going to be about 40 minutes before the teams came out onto the ice. So I decided to go out and look for a Preds t-shirt with my favorite number, 9, and player, Philip Forsberg's, name on it. 

I browsed through a couple of merchandise places but had no success. Finally I ended up going into the Team Store at the main entrance of the arena. 

I walked down the steps and saw anything and everything that you could imagine with a Predators theme on it, especially clothing. If I didn't find the shirt here I wasn't going to find it at all.

Then I got a pleasant surprise. Standing in the middle of the store working as one of the store employees was Vince Gil. I don't know why but he was helping people get shirts off the wall using a hook on a long stick. He was also taking pictures with those who asked him. 

I went past him and over to the corner of the store where the t-shirts were on display. I found the #9 shirt in a 2X. I wasn't sure if it would fit me so initially I decided not to buy it. 

As I started walking toward the exit I had to stop because Vince Gil and some one of his fans were taking a picture right in front of me. 

I decided that I needed to take advantage of this second chance photo op. So I asked one of his assistants if she would take picture for me. Vince said "hello", asked my name and what I was going to buy today. I told him about the t-shirt I had been looking at. Then we posed for the picture. 

 At that point I thought our conversation was over and I turned to leave. He then came back over to me and he led me over toward the rack on the wall and got it down for me.

As he handed me the shirt he told me that those who sit in his section of the arena call #9, "Scoresberg". A pretty clever play on his name. Wish I'd thought of that. 

At that point there was nothing to do but go pay for the shirt. I could have put it back but it would have been really awkward and I really wanted it.

As I walked out of the store I took a picture of an store employee who was all decked out in character as a Predators super fan. 
She wanted to take one with me but I only wanted her in the shot. When I thanked her she reminded me to make a lot of noise during the game as a way of cheering on the team. 

I got back to my seat just as the PA announcer introduced the Predators arrival on the ice for their shoot around and warm ups. 

I got a couple of shots of Forsberg shooting from the blue line. 
I took the opportunity to take a selfie with the team on the ice but it didn't turn out to be very good. The lights on the ice were too bright.  

Once the game started I put my camera away and enjoyed the action. Forsberg scored about the middle of the 1st period but it was taken away because his stick was too high when he hit redirected the puck into the goal. During the period, each team had a shot hit their opponent's goalpost. At the end of the first 20 minutes the game was still scoreless. 

At the first break I did what I had planned to do from the minute I first entered the arena. I went out to the Fox Sports set and got on TV. 

I showed you a picture of the way the set looked from the front this is what it looked like as I stood in the back. 

I did get on TV but I wasn't sure until I watched the video on my DVR the next day that I realized it. Here's some screen shots I took and a short video from the broadcast. I am on the right side of the screen under the word "Zone". 

I don't know about you but to me, that video has a little bit of a "Forrest Gump" feel to it. I didn't intend for it to be that way but that's how it turned out. 

The mission to get on TV took up most of the intermission time. I got back to my seat with about 2 minutes to go. Since the concession stand was right outside section 105, I figured I had time to get my soda refilled and get back for the start of the 2nd period. 

While waiting in line I realized that I was going to miss the start of the game. But I figured it would only be a minute or two so I wouldn't miss anything.

But as I stepped up to the counter, I heard the crowd roar and the horn sound. I realized I had missed the first score of the game. Austin Watson had put it in the net on a rebound off the backboard behind the goal. Slightly frustrated about missing the goal, I got back to my seat as quickly as I could. My hope was that what I missed wasn't the only goal of the night. 

Although the game had been quite exciting up to that point, it got even better than I could have expected. The defense and goal tending on both ends of the ice was practically perfect. The Preds net defender, Pekka Rinne, was magnificent.  

The score stayed at 1-0 until there was less than a minute left in the 3rd period. That's when a Predator's mistake at mid ice resulted in Vancouver tying the score. Regulation play ended with the teams knotted at 1-1.

This meant I was about to see my first live overtime game. At this point I was fortunate to see quite a few things in a hockey game I'd never seen before. (granted I can count the number of games I've been to on one hand but still there were some cool first time things...) 

The 3-on-3, five minute, overtime period started off with some controversy. About a minute into it a Nashville goal was once again disqualified; this time for a player interfering with the Vancouver goalie. 

This ruling caused the arena full of Nashville fans to chant insistently that in their opinion that the referee resembled a vacuum cleaner.  

With 1:40 to go in OT the Predators were called for an interference penalty. Unlike regulation play, a penalty in overtime meant Vancouver got an extra skater for a 4 on 3 advantage. I had never seen this before. This meant that the Preds would most likely be in defensive mode hoping for the chance to win during the shoot out. 

They held the Caunuks off for the remaining time. As the clock wound down to under 10 seconds a couple of the Preds stepped in front of and blocked a Vancouver shot. 

The puck rebounded back into the middle of the Pred's zone and Roman Josi picked it up and rushed down the ice. Along with him was Calle Jarnkrok. The two on none break was both an opportunity to score and a race against time. Deep in the Canucks' zone, Josi passed Jarnkrok, who with 1.5 seconds on the clock put the puck passed Vancouver's goalie for the overtime win. 

The building went wild and so did I. The Preds, had won the game and snapped a 6 game home losing streak. 

After a brief but intense celebration, I was quickly out of my seat, through the exit, and back in my car in about 10-15 minutes. It took me about half an hour to get out of the parking garage, through downtown and onto I-65 but that was perfectly fine with me. 

The night couldn't have turned out any better. My first solo trip to a Predators game was a memorable one. A whole lot of fun. I would like to go back again in April when they play the New York Islanders, my favorite team since I was a teenager. 

Maybe I'll take my wife along with me if she wants to go. She's not a hockey fan but just being there is an experience. If it's anything like this one was, I can't wait. 



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