Photo by Tommy Boyd
Thursday’s Western Conference Finals game was only the second in franchise history for the Nashville Predators. The fans poured into Bridgestone Plaza as if they were playoff veterans, though, and watched the Preds face the Anaheim Ducks for the fourth game of the series.
Like Tuesday, fans arrived as early as five o’clock to begin the festivities. They were greeted by some loud music and a severely dented Smash Car as one by one each fan contributed to a growing sea of gold and navy.
“I think you can see from the plaza and everywhere else that hockey has become a big deal in Nashville, Tennessee” said Preds fan Steve Sudbury.
Photo by Tommy BoydEvery so often, a brave Ducks fan would face the crowd as they made their way to the Arena doors. Some were Anaheim season ticket holders making a special trip, while others simply happened to be vacationing in Nashville at the right time.
Either way, they were met with amiable trash talk from the Smashville faithful.
“It’s definitely a different environment” said Ducks fan Phil Egan. “It’s hostile — but a good-natured hostility.”
Photo by Tommy BoydAfter those going into the Arena were through the doors, the fans outside made their way towards the screen in the plaza.
Row after row of gold jerseys watched the screen intently and excitedly in the opening minutes, with the occasional chant of “Let’s go Preds!” breaking out and spreading quickly throughout the crowd.
The excitement was sharply interrupted Anaheim’s first period goal, and only worsened after Nashville fell into an 0-2 hole going into the third period.
Some Smashville fans opted to call it quits at the break and headed towards lower Broadway early to beat the crowd. Most stood by though, carrying the faith that their team was on the verge of a comeback.
They were rewarded.