Swing and a Drive: Welcome to Smashville

Hockey.

It seems to be a foreign word in western Kentucky.

You know, that sport on ice with pucks and all the weird Canadians skating around punching each other in the face and poking people with their sticks? Yeah, that’s the one.

I am fully aware that basketball is king in Kentucky, and I’m cool with that.

As a Tennessean, football is the only sport anyone cares about, and basketball – especially the collegiate variety – is a nice change of pace from the obese guys mauling each other for hours on end.

I know hockey is a northern sport, and many of you folks around here are not exactly fond of those darn Yankees. I also was born and raised in the South, and I feel your pain – a restaurant without sweet tea is just plain wrong.

However, just because Kentucky Lake doesn’t freeze over in the winter doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give hockey a chance.

Just two hours away resides an extremely high-quality NHL team. Most of you are probably screaming “Go Cats” instead of reading this column closely, and they are four hours away! (Sorry, I had to get my UK shot in. Please don’t come and burn my couch.)

I am talking about the Nashville Predators. For those of you who may not know, it’s an NHL franchise which has resided in Nashville since 1998 and has made the playoffs seven of the last eight seasons. Surprised?

It is true. The Preds, as many fans call them, are an extremely successful franchise. They have two of the top defensive players in the league in goalie Pekka Rinne and defenseman Shea Weber, and have advanced to the second round of the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.

It is not the players that sold me on the team, however. The one-of- a-kind atmosphere and fan base surrounding the Predators and their home at Bridgestone Arena is truly unparalleled.

The city of Nashville has taken a Canadian sport and added its own flair. The arena is always rocking, and the community has really grown to support the team as the Predators have sold out 21 consecutive home games. The games are an absolute blast.

A live band plays between periods and the fans have all sorts of original cheers to taunt the opponents.

Fans have even started their own unique tradition of occasionally throwing catfish on the ice – a southern modification to the long standing tradition in Detroit of throwing an octopus.

It is such a good time. The games usually start at 7 p.m. and are over by 10 p.m. at the latest, so it is really an easy evening out to go to a game. If you try it once, trust me, you will fall in love with it.

Column by Jonathan Ferris, Staff writer.