NHL Blogger Survey: Know Your Nashville Predators
Want to know more about each NHL team? Welcome to the NHL Blogger Survey. During the season, NHL FanHouse will reach out to some of the top team (but not team-paid) bloggers in an effort to provide an up-close view. Today's participant is Buddy Oakes of the Nashville Predators' blog, Preds on the Glass.
PredsOnTheGlass states its goal as "spreading the gospel of the Nashville Predators to the four corners of the hockey universe." The blog provides commentary and the latest news from the Preds as well as from around the NHL and also features a weekly radio show on Mondays at 8 p.m. Eastern.
NHL Blogger Survey
Buddy Oakes, Preds on the Glass
Favorite current players: 1. Shea Weber, 2. Jordin Tootoo, 3. Pekka Rinne. I actually cheated on this one since the Nashville Scene just released a poll that revealed these three. This time last year, Toots would have probably won, but the Olympics and the captaincy have really propelled Shea into the spotlight.
Most Underrated: 1. Joel Ward, 2. Jerred Smithson, 3. Marcel Goc. The Preds have a history of unrecognized team players that are the heart of the Barry Trotz style of hockey. The Preds fell greatly on the penalty kill last year due to the departure of Vern Fiddler and Scott Nichol who previously wore the underrated crown in Nashville.
Pred on the Verge: Colin Wilson appears ready to make a big jump this season. He learned how to be a pro last year and is shooting for more consistency this year which should yield results. In Milwaukee, Blake Geoffrion will be am in-season call up and become the first player from Tennessee to play in the NHL and will be the Preds' poster boy for years to come.
Player Fans Worry About: Anders Lindback is starting the season as the backup to Pekka Rinne, who should play 60 games this year. While Lindback was stellar during the preseason, starting the year with a backup goalie that has never played in North America is unsettling to many fans. He got an early baptism on opening night when Rinne was injured and was perfect for the final period.
All-Time Favorite Preds: 1. Tomas Vokoun, 2. Paul Kariya, 3. Shea Weber. Vokoun represents the Predators' early successes, Kayria was the first "big name" player the Preds ever signed, and Weber is considered to be a cornerstone of the franchise's future.
Three Top Prospects (not on team): 1. Ryan Ellis, 2.Taylor Beck, 3. Roman Josi. It is really difficult to limit this to three since the Predators are rated the top organization by a few websites. Ellis is back in Windsor seeking his third Memorial Cup and working on the defensive side of his game. Beck's stock really soared in camp this year as he appears to have the tools to provide offensive punch that the Preds need. Josi has excelled in Europe and in international play and will play in Milwaukee this year.
Best Ticket Deal: Being a "non-traditional" market, the Predators have several deals to get people to come out during the week. The post popular deal is College Night on Thursdays, when students get a discount on and everyone gets $2.00 items at designated concession stands. On Military Monday nights, all current and past service personnel get $20 tickets for the best available seating.
Best Fan Initiative: The Predators have a unique demographic to their season ticket sales. Unlike most teams that are dependent on businesses for most of their sales, the vast majority of Nashville's ticketholders are individuals and families. They have initiated several programs to keep renewals high during a bad economy and hit a goldmine last year with a 2/20 plan where fans could lock in their price for two seasons and pay over 20 months. As a result, the team had a 91% renewal rate this season and picked up over 3,000 new ticket plans.
Best Charity Program: The Predators Foundation has many events throughout the year that raise money. Last season, over 100 local charities benefited from over $300,000 in funds given out at the end of the season.
Chief Rival: The Detroit Red Wings are unquestionably the Predators' primary rival. When the franchise was first awarded, the GM plant in nearby Spring Hill was at full capacity and many of the team's early supporters were from Michigan. This led to the "Predwing" fan that cheered for Nashville whenever they were not playing the Wings. Over time, most have converted. Detroit has always been the team that the Preds wanted to beat and are the hottest tickets of the year. Other teams that generate bad blood are San Jose (from playoff losses) and Columbus, Chicago and St. Louis as division rivals.
Disliked Opposing Players: Chris Chelios is the poster child for Predator fan angst. He was not well-liked before he called Nashville fans "hillbillyish," which took things to a new level. Even with Chelios retired, the "Chelios is a Sissy" chant still reigns at the Bridgestone Arena. Alexandre Burrows may be a successor to the crown after an incident with J. P. Dumont two years ago and last year when his dive led to a Jerred Smithson ejection. This was the incident that led to Stephane Auger warning him before the next game where their paths crossed.
Favorite Announcers: Pete Weber, Terry Crisp and Tom Callahan are Nashville treasures. Pete and Terry have done TV and radio since the first season. No one has more fun during a game than those two. They report the action and make it fun for everyone. Occasionally, Crisp will get so carried away telling a story in the media room during intermission that he has to sprint back to his perch for the next period.
Team Accessibility to Fans (1-10): 9 -- Players from around the league love coming to Nashville for a day off because they can actually hit the town and be respected by the locals even when recognized. Nashville is a town full of stars and people know how to respect the privacy of known people in public. It's not unusual for players to be seen around town and not be mobbed. Because of this, it is much easier for the players to be comfortable around the fans. The Preds have several meet and greets with players during the year as well as events where the players go into the community and work the window at a Wendy's. It always makes for great video.
Management Communication with Fans: 9 -- This is the South so customers expect open communications and the Predators new ownership (since the Jim Ballsille fiasco) have emphasized making fans the key focus of being a part of the Predator family. They have regular Q and A's for fans and the Skate of the Union Address each summer in July is a fan favorite. You get the top brass discussing the new draft picks, free agent signings, and what to expect in the coming season.
Approach to Bloggers: After having an informal program for several years where bloggers were granted credentials, the Predators brought the whole process together this season with their "Blogger's Row" initiative. During the preseaon and on opening night up to ten different bloggers have participated. With football being king in the area, the Predators have gone to alternative means to spread the word on hockey in Nashville.
Game Operations: 9 -- In the early days, the Preds had to run informational clips like "what is icing." They have advanced far beyond that to have top quality entertainment during stoppages and in the pregame. This year's pregame video is one of the best ever produced according to those who know these things.
Smart Arena Touch: The Predators have a permanent band stage built over the Zamboni entrance where a live band plays every game. Some bands are regional and local while others are big name country acts like Vince Gill and Amy Grant. Former Kansas lead singer John Elefante joined the band opening night for "Carry on My Wayward Son."
Best Known Section: Section 303 is the loudest section in the Bridgestone Arena and is known across the league for being active during the games. The founders of the original group originally sat together when all Nashville had was minor league hockey. Many folks have criticized the group as being like a college crowd but at the same time will note that few sections in the league are more enthusiastic.
Team Hangout: Amerigos for pasta, Flemming's for steaks, and team sponsor Jersey Mike's for a quick sub. There is not really a known hangout but these are places you hear on a regular basis.
Best Restaurants for Fans: The most popular pregame fan meal is bar-b-que (pork of course) at Rippy's which is across the street from the arena and has open air seating on the roof where you can view all the activity on the plaza before the game. My personal favorite is Demos' on Commerce where you can get a great steak for $15.
Visiting Team Hangouts: Tootsies Orchid Lounge is a favorite Honkey Tonk hangout for out of town players when they hit the Lower Broad Strip a block from their hotel. For dinner, The Palm is across from the arena and the staff knows how to treat the players well.