I get that trying to support the Nashville Predators this spring has been a tricky proposition. There’s always a bit of angst about the team that knocked you out. Thankfully that’s been somewhat mitigated by their next two opponents being two teams I can’t stand, and I know I’m not alone.
There’s obviously the bigger, much bigger, that this was the organization that stood behind and re-signed Mike Ribeiro, and also employed Mike Fisher and his non-stop bible-waving arm. So I get that, too. God knows if you’re a Hawks fan you’ve dealt with enough conflict in your hearts to add any more to it.
And yet I find myself drawn to the Predators’ run here, not just because of PK Subban or Ryan Johansen simply caving in Kesler’s skull while calling him out on it, though those certainly help.
It’s the noise coming through my TV.
It seems more and more people are commenting on the Bridgestone Arena atmosphere. It even arrived on Deadspin today. Maybe it’s just the color, but I can’t help but think of the Warriors-Mavericks series from ten years ago, when another #8 seed with a yellow-clad arena simply clobbered a #1 seed (sound familiar?). It was the first time the Dubs had been in the playoffs in 13 years, and their fans were simply frothing. You watched games in Oakland, and your TV vibrated through the whole thing. You didn’t watch the game so much as tune in for the noise.
I get that same feeling watching Bridgestone this spring, and really the past couple. I know hockey fans love to shit on all their chants that are different uses for the word “suck.” Sure, it gets a tad repetitive. But it’s different, and is it really any more repetitive than “Go Leafs Go” for the five minutes the crowd at the ACC isn’t on their phone?
Let me put it this way. If I blindfolded you, and then basically rotated the TV through various games, you’d know when I landed on one in Nashville. Call it hokey, call it stupid, call it whatever, but there isn’t another arena in the NHL that sounds like it.
And isn’t that what partly drew us into being fans in the first place? The way the Stadium sounded? Felt? Where you weren’t sure if the boards and glass was to protect the fans from the players or vice versa. A coliseum type thing where the lions come from anywhere.
Sure, there chants are lifted from various college arenas. Yeah, a yellow-out is hardly new. A catfish on the ice is merely borrowed from an octopus. So what? It’s the only place that sounds like this right now. We sit and laugh at places like Anaheim where they can’t fill the building or dump their tickets to opposing fans. Or the free tickets they have to give away in Florida. The constant struggle in Arizona. And yet here’s a southern market that has turned into the most unique atmosphere in the NHL, a place that is a total blast to see a game in a city you can’t help but have a blast in, and basically everyone can’t wait to shit on it.
You sit around for fucking Tommy Hawk to hit his drum that wakes up Tyler and Dakota from Old Town up. I’m going to enjoy this.
-I’m a layered guy. So I can sit here and write about how the NBC broadcast highlighting all the illegal and cheap shit Ryan Kesler does not to call it out but to celebrate it is stupid and gross, while also loving the heel/face dynamic of Kesler-Johansen.
I think in some ways, deep down, Kesler gets it. Hockey would do well to try and do more of this villain-hero type thing, because it does make for great theater. I know I wasn’t the only one particularly enjoying RyJo Sen giving Kesler a 60-minute swirly last night, and some of it had to do with the verbal back-and-forth in the press after Game 2. We all still remember Roenick-Roy ’96: The Ear Canal Tapes, don’t we?
I suppose Kesler’s defense is that all of his bullshit is meant to get someone off his game, worrying about other things. It’s not working with Johansen at all, who’s carrying a 65% Corsi in three games. It certainly worked on McDavid, who only had one plus-possession game and that was the one where the Ducks simply gave up in Game Six. It didn’t really work on Johansen last year either, who threw an 58.7% at the Ducks in last year’s first round, though Boudreau wasn’t nearly as concerned with getting Kesler out there against him every shift. Went well, that.
I don’t think there’s too much wrong with highlighting this battle, because it’s basically the easiest individual one to identify. You just wish it was shaded more to the “look at what Johansen is having to get through and is” instead of “Boy this Kesler sure is gritty because he loves to blindside Johansen all the time!”
With the way things are going, this is probably Kesler’s last stand. He’s not getting any younger, and Johansen might add his severed head next to Toews’s this spring and he will only just be entering his prime. Good thing Kesler is signed until eternity then.
You only retreat to the dark arts when you’ve got not other tricks left.