Today is sorta kinda a big day in the life and history of Nashville. If you haven't heard, the local hockey club is in the middle of a record-setting run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
With one more win tonight against Anaheim, the Predators would advance to the Stanley Cup Final to play either Ottawa or Pittsburgh. (It's looking like the Penguins, the defending Cup champs.)
The Preds have something of a niche audience during the regular season; I've been a part of the "Loyal Legion," as its called, for the past two seasons. I probably saw 25 regular-season games in person, and I want to say I only missed maybe two or three games on TV. I was bought-in all the way for this season after last year's second-round appearance and the blockbuster off-season trade for superstar defenseman P.K. Subban.
But the playoffs? Everyone jumps on board. It first started in town, with the city getting more and more behind the team as it swept rival Chicago in Round 1. The country music anthem singers' appearances - Carrie Underwood and Luke Bryan among them - have not hurt anything in terms of local visibility.
But as the run continued, getting past St. Louis in six games in Round 2, the country started to pay attention to this smaller-market club making a lot of noise. Literally. Bridgestone Arena is a great home environment for most any home game - it sold out for every Preds home game during the regular season - but it's gone to new level after new level as the team has done the same thing on the ice.
A lot of people going to the playoff games say it's the loudest sporting venue they've ever been inside. Some say the Titans' Music City Miracle in 2000 was louder. I could probably put some of my experiences at Neyland Stadium up against it; I recall a lengthy overtime game against Arkansas, with Jason Witten catching the game-winning score, that was deafening.
But those are outdoor venues with 70,000-100k people. Smashville is in its own class as an arena that holds 17,000-plus. I've taken a different person to every playoff game so far, and I love the fact that I cannot overhype the experience. It lives up to the attention its getting night after night.
And I cannot wait to hear it tonight.
With an appearance in the Lord Stanley's final dangling in the May air, tonight has a chance to be historically special - and historically loud. Bridgestone has already flirted with the 130-decibel record for an indoor venue that was set in February at a Kansas basketball game. A timely goal tonight from a Preds, and that record is going down as Tim McGraw sings the goal song.
I've been inspired by how the team has come together in these playoffs. It's played its best hockey by far in the postseason, defeating two division rivals before taking a lead against Anaheim on Saturday night without two of its more integral players, Ryan Johansen and Mike Fisher. Odds are Fisher is out again tonight, but young and unsung players keep making improbable contributions. And Pekka Rinne continues to play some of his career's best minutes in net.
The Preds keep finding a way, and the community's support continues to grow and grow. It's amazing to see -- and it gives me chills to think what it would be like with one more win and that vaunted Stanley Cup Final appearance. Already tonight, especially with pleasant weather, there could be as many as 10,000 people outside the arena in addition to all those of us inside.
If the Preds win, there will be a party on Lower Broadway. God, I hope they win, just to see the scene tonight and for the next couple of weeks.
The economic windfall - particularly with some of the series coinciding with country music's biggest part of the year, CMA Fest - would be incredible; it already has been. If there's another series, I bet superstar musicians would stand in line to play free shows in the plaza across the street from Bridgestone. It doesn't matter whether you're Thomas Rhett or Rhett Thomas, Nashville is behind its hockey team.
I was dropping someone off Sunday night in East Nashville when we noticed a couple of guys stenciling the outline of the Predators logo on a wall. It was pretty late, maybe 10:30 p.m., and I thought someone had spontaneously decided to start a little mural.
I went back over a few minutes ago, and this is what I found:
That stenciled logo had sprung to life with color, and it had been given beautiful context. It was such a pleasant surprise as I turned the corner. I just expected to the see the Pred Head.
I pulled over, got out of the car and asked if the artist minded if I took a picture. I reached out my hand and introduced myself to Troy, who had been finishing up the Tennessee state flag logo in the Preds' gold and blue.
Troy told me that he lives across the street and that he and Phillip, who lives in the house where mural resides, had been painting these for holidays for years. They've become neighborhood-famous for their work; everyone in East Nashville comes by to see what they've come up with for St. Patrick's Day and Christmas.
Over the weekend, they decided to commemorate the Preds' run with a special edition mural. They got a beautiful, 77-degree May day in which to work today.
Go see it at Eastland and 20th, on the right just past Rosepepper and Jeni's.
This run has embodied everything great about this great city. I sure hope the Preds find a way again tonight. We'll be doing our part; that much I know for sure.
Have I mentioned I love this city?