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A New Sport and a New Love

Nashville is in a hockey frenzy along with other southern states due to the incredible run of the 16th seeded Preds

RealSport

The Nashville Predators have taken this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs by storm, which means there are going to be bandwagon fans that take some heat for being obvious bandwagon fans. Include me in that group. I grew up in Huntsville, Alabama — which is about two hours from Nashville. Hockey is a strangely popular sport in Huntsville, and my high school won something along the lines of five state championships in six years. Hockey is sort of relevant in Huntsville, but I never caught on until about a year ago.

During the 2015–2016 NHL season, one of the freshmen on the team was a big hockey fan and wanted me to buy NHL 16 for my PS4 since the only game I truly wanted to play was NBA 2k. I eventually gave in sometime late in the fall semester and bought NHL 15 because I’m cheap. I, of course, chose the Nashville Predators to play with because geographically it made sense for me to be a Preds fan. I won my first ever NHL 15 game against my friend, and he was not happy about it. Beginners luck is a real thing.

Learning the rules of hockey is a journey, and listening to Canadian announcers say “eh” after every couple of sentences takes a long time to get used to. My friend and I would watch the regular season games on NBC during Sunday afternoons throughout the season if there happened to be a game on NBC. We later figured out the magic of Reddit and r/NHL streams. We watched most of the playoff games in April and part of May before we moved back home for the summer. The Preds beat the Ducks in seven games in round one, and I was still a little iffy on the whole hockey thing.

In the second round, Nashville went on to compete against the San Jose Sharks. In Game 4 of the second round series, the two teams went to triple overtime. Triple. Overtime. I had my journalism class the next morning at 9:30, and the game ended sometime after 2 in the morning. I was expecting the teams to go to a shootout after the first overtime because I still had no knowledge of what was happening in hockey. Nashville went on to win that game, and I went on to sleep through my alarm for about 45 minutes and not go to class.

The series went to seven games and ended in a mournful 5–0 loss to the eventual Western Conference champions. Pekka Rinne was eventually pulled out of the game, and he decided to break his stick on the goal and my heart hurt for the first time while attempting to be a hockey fan. Rinne, from my knowledge of hockey at the time, is one of the most loved Nashville Predators. To watch one of his best seasons to end like that was nothing short of heartbreaking, and I still didn’t entirely care about hockey at that point.

I was a lukewarm hockey fan last summer when the Predators made the blockbuster straight up trade swap of Shea Weber and P.K. Subban. I knew nothing about Subban other than he was a younger defenseman and that he was pretty good. The Preds got off to a wary start this season, and somehow snagged the last spot in the playoffs. I didn’t watch much hockey during the regular season, but decided I would tune in for the playoffs because playoff hockey is super fun to watch.

When the Preds destroyed the Blackhawks in a first round sweep, I decided I would be all in on the Preds. I don’t know too much about hockey, but I do know that the Blackhawks should be hated until the day I die. Nashville rode the momentum against the Blues and finished off the Ducks in six games to advance to their first ever Stanley Cup Final.

Hockey is super fun even if you have no idea what icing is, or what icing is actually for (I’m sort of sure, but not really sure what icing is). Playoff hockey is probably my favorite postseason of any sport because Cavs-Warriors 3.0 was not needed, nor am I excited to watch. Fights are allowed in hockey, so I’m not sure why anyone would not be interested in the sport. I’ll be going to Nashville on Saturday to watch Game 3 on Lower Broadway with thousands of other Preds fans, and I’m all in on hockey now.

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A New Sport and a New Love
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