NASHVILLE, Tenn. (KDKA) – The Stanley Cup Final is a familiar setting for the Pittsburgh Penguins. But for the Nashville Predators and their fans, it’s a whole new world.
“Smashville” finally gets its moment in the spotlight of the National Hockey League’s biggest stage when the Predators and Penguins face off in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final Saturday night. The Penguins lead the series 2-0.
“To see the excitement around the city, the excitement of our fan base, I’m sure it’s going to be a great atmosphere,” Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said Thursday.
Before this postseason, the Predators had never advanced beyond the second round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Their run to the Cup Final this postseason has made the team the pride of Music City, but it wasn’t always that way.
Ten years ago, the Predators nearly left Nashville. Businessman Jim Balsillie, who had once been in line to purchase the Penguins, was set to buy the team. He planned to move the it to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Nashville businessmen and fans rallied to save the team.
The Predators now play in front of packed houses at the Bridgestone Arena, and they boast the best in-arena environment in all of sports. Celebrities fire up fans on the ice before games. Music stars including Carrie Underwoood, Kelly Clarkson and others have sung the national anthem during this postseason.
In the stands, there’s a notorious section known as “Cellblock 303.” It’s filled with rowdy, chanting fans. Many have had seats in the section since the earliest days of the Predators franchise.
There’s another tradition among Predators fans. Throwing a catfish onto the ice dates back to 2003. Penguins fans saw it first-hand when a Predators fan tossed one onto the ice at PPG Paints Arena during Game 1 of the Cup Final. Prosecutors charged 36-year-old Jacob Waddell of Tennessee, but the charges were later dropped.
That’s probably not the last time a catfish will be seen during the Cup Final. One group of Predators fans have vowed to bring a 50-pound catfish to Bridgestone Arena to throw on the ice.