Why Nashville Predators Season Opener Felt Like New Beginning Of Old Times

Swaths of gold cloth, rally towels with the words "Paint the town Preds" printed on them, were draped neatly over each of the more than 17,000 seats inside a mostly quiet, mostly empty Bridgestone Arena on Thursday during the Nashville Predators' morning skate.

Those empty seats watched over 23 men who were wielding hockey sticks on the 200-foot-long-by-85-foot-wide stage made of ice. That emptiness became the norm last season, which was played mostly minus fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eight hours later Thursday, all 17,159 of those seats were spoken for, many of those towels were waving in the air. Twenty of those men had changed into work uniforms to begin the 2021-22 season against the expansion Seattle Kraken, which ended 4-3 in favor of the visitors.

For the first time in a long time, those men in home gold had a lot of company. For the first time in a long time, the beginning of "normal" seemed plausible, if only for a few hours.

"We got a little bit of a taste of it in the playoffs (last season)," forward Filip Forsberg said Wednesday. "It was pretty close to sold out. But opening night, sold out, a little Gold walk (before the game) and things like that, it gets you excited. It's going to be a little hard to sleep tonight."

When the lights went out on Broadway before the game Thursday night, the roar was back.

Fans, lots of them, gathered for their usual chants of “sucks” after each Kraken player was announced.

The team's mascot, Gnash, was lowered to the ice from the rafters for his pregame routine. A familiar drum began to beat, prompting those 17,000-plus to clap their hands in unison.

A hype video played on the big screen while bass rattled every nook and cranny of the place the Predators call home, a place that had sat mostly empty and mostly quiet on game nights for the last 19 months or so, save for a couple of playoff games last season.

Then came player introductions.

Paul McCann, as usual, presided as the master of ceremonies.

He called out each Predator — from trainers to equipment managers, including the beloved Craig “Partner” Baugh were introduced. Coaches, including assistant Todd Richards, back less than two weeks after suffering a heart attack, were called by name, too.

Then came the players, in numerical order: Matt Benning,  Rocco Grimaldi, Mathieu Olivier, Mark Borowiecki, Cody Glass, Filip Forsberg, Luke Kunin, Yakov Trenin, Ben Harpur, Nick Cousins, Philip Tomasino, Eeli Tolvanen, David Rittich, Alexandre Carrier, Philippe Myers, Dante Fabbro, Juuse Saros, Tanner Jeannot, Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene.

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Each met with a roar.

Then came the captains, alternates Mattias Ekholm, ink barely dry on his new contract extension, and Mikael Granlund.

The last man needed no introduction, but Roman Josi received one anyway. His perhaps the loudest, as he appeared from the fog-filled mouth of the inflatable Predator and skated to the blue line, where his teammates stood in a neat row, helmets removed in preparation for the national anthem.

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Tennessee Titans players Chester Rogers and Julio Jones waved gold rally towels and wore Predators gear just before puck drop.

"It was so much fun," Josi said of the atmosphere, not of the loss. "Just the entrance, coming into a full building. The game. And when we score a goal the crowd gets into it. We've all missed that."

Tolvanen, in his first home opener, prompted that sound Josi talked about when he scored the first goal of the season on the team's first shot on goal, a snipe past Philipp Grubauer that started a 17,000-plus person celebration. Josi scored, too. So did Granlund.

Fans took advantage of their first chance at their, "He shoots. He scores. You suck! It's all your fault" greeting a few minutes after McCann announced each goal. 

In the end, the Kraken's two power-play scores and an empty-netter proved too much.

In the end, it felt like a new beginning of old times.

Reach Paul Skrbina at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @PaulSkrbina.

Source : https://www.statesman.com/story/sports/nhl/predators/2021/10/15/nashville-predators-score-seattle-kraken-roman-josi-bridgestone-arena/6058217001/

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Video captured of fans fighting at Bridgestone Arena during Nashville Predators opener

Source:MSN

Video captured of fans fighting at Bridgestone Arena during Nashville Predators opener