It was little over a decade ago when there was talk about the Preds leaving Nashville for Canada. The team was up for sale by owner Craig Leipold and attendance and fan commitment to the team were questions that would impact that decision. There were the calls of fury on local sports radio and the occasional tiny story about it across the country. See, Nashville Tn. was a music town, first and foremost, then a Tennessee Titans town. Hockey just didn’t appear to be in the plans.
The support that followed in this city to prove that not only did the Preds belong, but the NHL belonged in Music City USA were incredible. Rallies were held and the fan turnout was tremendous. For the first time since this team arrived in this city, fans were making their real feelings known. They would not lose their hockey team and were determined to show the hockey world that this was an NHL town once and for all.
In November of 2007, the team was officially sold to Predators Holdings LLC and the new owners announced the team would stay in Nashville. What has followed from that day has been nothing short of miraculous for a small city known for its music.
On Saturday night, the Preds went into Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals a beat up team. They were already without young star Kevin Fiala, who broke his leg in round two vs St. Louis. On this night they would be without their captain, Mike Fisher, as well as playing without star C Ryan Johansen. The task at hand was simple on paper. Beat the Anaheim Ducks on their home ice to take a 3-2 series lead in this best-of-seven.
It would take that extra something from their supporting cast and what they got was a win for the ages. Veteran Vern Fiddler returned to Nashville recently and has been everything they could have hoped for. Pontus Aberg has provided grit and a spark to the offense and he scored the game-winner last night. Filip Forsberg continues to shine with each game. His sheer power and will have pushed the Preds to the brink of playing for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Others like Fisher, Ryan Ellis and P.K. Subban have been outstanding in their roles.
Still, every year playoff hockey is determined by the play of your goalie. Pekka Rinne has been near lights out the entire playoffs. He continues to make big save after big save and shows no sign of a let-up. All his team needs right now is one more performance for the ages and Nashville will find themselves in the Finals.
It is the furthest this team has ever been in their history and they are looking for more. This team has all the confidence a team needs to make a championship run. They have the talent and the tools to go along with the best goaltender in hockey right now when it counts. They are playing with a grit and determination this city has never seen before. A passion and a will to win that has been missing since Day 1 of this franchise. The city and the fans make Bridgestone Arena the best home-ice advantage in the NHL period.
On Monday night, the eyes of the hockey world will descend upon Nashville, Tn. They will see a young hockey power just getting started on what can be a memorable run. For now, the fans are anxious in anticipation of the greatest sports night in the history of this city. We remember when the Titans came to town and right behind them, the Predators. What this city wants now is a champion. A Stanley Cup Champion to be more precise. The time has never felt so right, so true and so close.
So stay tuned for Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals Monday night, right here in Nashville, Tennessee.
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