I just got home from Nashville. Voice hoarse, body tired.
A lot has been said about the city of Nashville and Predators fans throughout these playoffs and it has come to a fever pitch in the Stanley Cup Final. You can’t even open Twitter without seeing somebody gush about the Smashville experience and how great it all is.
Whether it’s about the atmosphere in the building or the atmosphere in the city streets, writers and pundits have praised Nashville to the point where it’s nauseating and almost seems patronizing. We get it, OK? Nashville’s great!
After experiencing it first hand, let me say this:
Everything you have heard about the hockey experience in Nashville, everything you have heard about their lunatic fans, and everything you’ve heard about how loud the arena is – it’s true. It’s all true. Every word of it with zero hyperbole, exaggeration, or jazzing up.
It is simply the best hockey experience in the world right now.
I’ve seen some Penguins fans take offence to this, and look, I totally get it. Everybody’s fawning over Nashville and all of a sudden Pittsburgh and their fans, who are still reigning Stanley Cup champions by the way, are chopped liver.
I’m young and there are still a lot of hockey things I want to experience but I’ve worked in this business long enough to have a Mount Rushmore of hockey moments that I’ve experienced in person.
I saw Sidney Crosby score the gold-medal winning goal in Vancouver. The pop in the building and the mayhem outside afterward is still the most surreal thing I’ve ever experienced.
I saw Jordan Eberle score two quick goals in the third period of the 2010 World Junior gold medal game in Saskatoon, Sask. Eberle’s game-tying goal in that one is still one of the loudest pops I’ve ever heard. I should also note that they cancelled the rest of the game after that so Canada and the U.S. tied. That’s how I choose to remember it, anyway.
Even just last year, I was in Pittsburgh at Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, which means I was there for the “Bonino Bonino Bonino” goal. I don’t quite know how to describe how bananas Penguins fans went after that goal. For a second I legitimately thought I was about to be eaten.
I’ve seen NHL games in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Boston, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and now Nashville. I’ve been to two World Junior gold-medal games and seen Canada win gold in both men’s and women’s hockey live on home ice. They were all absolutely incredible in their own way.
Nashville tops them all.
I’m serious. OK, maybe not the golden goal in Vancouver. That was the best. I tell you what though – they weren’t standing and singing coordinated chants in Vancouver. They didn’t stand and scream their brains out for a full two minutes during a TV timeout, either. Nashville did. Nashville does.
Bridgestone Arena, where the Preds call home, is a little bit different structurally compared to a lot of the other arenas I’ve been to. The fans call it “compact.” The rows of seats are on a sharper vertical angle. More importantly, the roof is very low and flat. This all combines for the perfect environment to create the loudest building in the NHL.
Supposedly, Bridgestone Arena reached a peak volume of 129.4 decibels during Game 3. I’ve also read 110.1db, which is still pretty darn loud. For reference, an ambulance is about 120db – 130db. The average volume was 107.7db, meanwhile, prolonged exposure to sounds that are 85db or higher can cause permanent hearing loss. It’s like a concert where the mosh pit is made of ice.
Their ears might be ringing and mine still are too but one thing isn’t up for debate at all: These are no bandwagon fans. Heck – I met somebody who drove in from Alabama so they could join the fun.
People are saying Nashville is an incredible experience because it is. They aren’t sucking up to a market that hasn’t gotten the props it deserves until now, they’re just telling you the truth. This isn’t to say Pittsburgh isn’t going to be an absolute madhouse for Game 5 on Thursday.
The best players in any sport force the other players around them to be better. Right now, Predators fans are issuing a polite but real challenge to the rest of the NHL: Step your game up.