Last April, I did the most outrageous thing in my life. It did not result in being scolded or yelled at or even given the Greek disappointed head nod by my parents. I embarked on conquering my greatest fear, in style, and I was applauded for it.I have to say, it was one of the best times of my life.I actually participated in planning a vacation of epic proportions, that to this day, I still cannot believe I did it. Those who know me, know that I hate flying. A drive to Toronto for me, was preferable to a flight to a beautiful island in the sun.But I do believe that has all changed now.
On April 1st, 2011, I embarked on a trip that involved 5 different flights and thousands of miles. I decided I wanted to visit Nashville before landing in our original destination: Las Vegas. At first, a trip to Nashville seemed ridiculous to my husband. Both hubby and I are avid Habs and Sergei Kostitsyn fans, but the notion of going to Nashville to see a Predators game that did not involve the Habs, hubby was skeptical and unwilling. He had a reason to think that. I mean, why take a detour in Nashville when you're headed to Vegas to simply see a hockey game. However, then the best thing that could ever come up...came up. The Canadian, worldwide successful band RUSH released new cities in their tour that included Nashville, on April 3rd. This is when plans started to roll. Before I knew it, we booked our hotel, our flights and not only that, my wonderful, incredible fellow tweeps planned a full weekend for us. Just so you all understand, I am terrified of flying. Absolutely terrified, and this vacation involved the following flights: Montreal to Toronto. Toronto to Nashville. Nashville to Denver. Denver to Las Vegas. Then Vegas to Montreal....all in a span of 11 days. But this blog is not about the flying, it's about the amazing,incredible short time we spent in Nashville.
Upon announcing on twitter that,in fact, we were going to Nashville, the influx of invitations began. Starting with lifts from the airport, to attending the Predators Wine tasting fundraiser on April 1st, to going to a Preds practice and tickets to the Preds game on April 2nd against the Red Wings.So before even landing in Nashville, our whole weekend was planned. All this, because of the wonderful world of twitter. You talk to people everyday, you don't really know them. You have no idea of how they are away from a computer, until you meet them, and you feel like you've known them your whole life. That's exactly what happened in Nashville.
Nashville = Smashville
We first met Mark ( @theviewfrom111), who not only picked us up from the airport and gave us a tour of the city, we were his guests that evening at the Predators Wine tasting fundraiser.Due to time constraints,our initial meeting was short, which is the exact opposite of what our evening festivities were.
One hour and a half after landing in Nashville, Rebecca (@Tigerpredschick) picked me up from my hotel to take me to a Preds open practice. She lives in Memphis, about 3 hours away, and whenever she can, she attends Preds games and practices. She went out of her way to make sure that I got to a practice.This experience was somewhat of a shock to me. The practice facility was so fan friendly, it was unbelievable. Fans are at ice level, and the only thing separating them from the players is the plexiglass. THAT'S IT. You're not standing two stories above the players behind soundproof windows,like at the Complex Sportif Bell, you are right in there. Players coming on and off the ice are just mere feet in front of you, stopping for pictures and autographs. I was shocked,to say the least.And not only did I see Sergei Kostitsyn and the rest of the Predators, but I also met other favourite tweeps like Jennifer (@Predsaddict) and Rachel (@RachelAddison). I swear I felt like I knew them my whole life. We had lots of laughs, it was absolutely incredible. After practice ended,all the players came to greet the fans. All but one. All, but the one I wanted to meet. ^()&$#@% oh, well. Next time.
Again,due to time constraints, I had to rush back to my hotel to get myself ready and presentable for the Predators Fundraiser. I wanted to spend more time with the Rebecca & Rachel because I knew I wasn't going to see them again(on this trip), but unfortunately,those couple of hours would have to suffice.
Jet lagged, exhausted, swollen like a buffoon, we made our way to the Bridgestone Arena to meet Mark for the Wine Tasting Fundraiser. Entering the arena,we saw that the pro shop was open, but to our dismay, they were sold out of SK74 jerseys and t-shirts. So we proceed to the Gala, that was held on the ice surface of the arena. I was awestruck. Standing on the ice ( obviously covered), staring up at the stands, the jumbo-tron and not believing I was actually there. After "sipping" a few wines, we decided to have a glass in the players bench. Sucking in the moment, sipping our wine,looking up in the arena and not believing we were actually there. There were hundreds and hundreds or people there to support the team. Some wearing their Preds jerseys, some in T-shirts and others with Preds pinson their jackets. We finally meet up with Mark and his amazing wife Laura. They introduced us to some of their friends, who were just as warm. Hubby was amazed at how all this could happen through twitter. More drinks, more food and lots of talking. Huddled over with Laura, we talked about Martin Erat,her personal favourite, the Preds, and of course, she was trying to convince me to try grits, to no avail. What can I say? Absolutely incredible woman. Soon thereafter, Mark introduced us to Fireball Whiskey. OMG was that ever delicious. To this day,I can't remember how many I had, but just that it was going down smoothly. Mark then introduced us to assistant coach Pederson and VP of Preds marketing Christian both with which we talked about Canadian hockey, Montreal and the increased awareness and support of hockey programs in Nashville. Whiskey in hand, we looked over the items for auction. Two items caught my eye. An autographed SK74 goal scoring puck (easy to travel with) and an autographed picture (not so easy to travel with). Seeing how much I wanted the frame,Mark convinced hubby to bid on it, and that he would mail it to us. And so it happened. We won the bid on the frame!! YAY! To add to a perfect first day in Nashville, Mark and Laura also won their bid on the SK74 puck,that they gave to me. I don't even know how I could ever repay them with their generosity and friendship.
Day 2 : Gameday
It's gameday. Preds vs Red Wings at 2pm. Still jet lagged, we ate our breakfast and made our way to the Bridgestone Arena for the tailgate party. The lot outside the arena wall full of activities and jammed with people. Fans filled the streets & I felt like I was back home in Montreal,only the jersey colours were different. I did wear my Preds t-shirt but added my Habs cap to the wardrobe. I felt I had to represent them too.We met up with Jim (@Diamondhockey) & his lovely wife for a pre game drink & then made our way to our seats for the pre-game skate. I didn't know what to expect. Never went to a hockey game outside of Montreal and the Bell Centre. What I experienced for the next few hours was absolutely mind blowing. Not only were our seats at a prime location (thank you Jim) but I was able to go down to ice level and see the players. Fans are allowed to stand next to the glass during the warm up. Security doesn't wisp you away. They appreciate fan support and let you enjoy yourself. Once again,I found myself standing mere feet away from my favourite Pred. He looked right at me and I'm guessing he noticed my Habs cap because he then blasted a slapshot at the glass in front of me. LOL
The arena has filled up. Chants have started and my ears are ringing.I've been to many games at the Bell Centre and only once was it as loud as the Bridgestone. I kid you not. It was so loud that I thought my heart was going to pop out of my back....and this is all before Beau Bice even stepped on the ice to sing the Star Spangled Banner. (yes,the Beau Bice from American Idol, who ended up sitting just a few rows in front of us) Ever heard of the TV time out, unsolicited, standing ovations in Nashville? Well if not, you just did. Every single fan in the place stands up,cheers and claps for the duration of the break. I freaked. We freaked.
With great thanks to the twitter world,we knew to visit Cellblock 303 at the intermission,and yet again,my mind was blown away.I met most of the tweeps that I chatted with. They were real!! From Buddy(@predsontheglass) to Ben (@predsfanben), @RLDhockey, @Predsaddict, @JoshuaCooper and Amanda (@ADPreds) who had a gift for me. Knowing the trouble I had finding a Sergei Kostitsyn Jersey, she gave me her own. I think about that to this day and it still makes me tear. Never,in my life, have I felt such warmth from what were, strangers.
The intermission was coming to an end, so we had to rush back to our seats.With hands full of goodies, I had some difficulty getting my SK74 jersey on.Trying to put my right hand in the left sleeve,hair tangled up in the jersey.....I managed to miss his 20th goal LIVE, and I was there. I missed it. The crowd roared,my eardrums were throbbing,hubby and Melissa were yelling Sergei scored and I had his jersey over my eyes. A complete, ecstatic mess. At least I got to see the replay on the jumbotron. Boo
The game ended. Preds lost in overtime and we made our way back to our hotel for some much needed rest. After about a few of hours, still very early on a Saturday night, we didn't know what to do or where to go. I contacted Jen through twitter, and although she was 30 miles away, we arranged to go out for dinner and drinks, thus requiring her to come back downtown to meet us.We had supper, walked along Broadway, Ben joined us at The Stage for some live country music, then made our way to The dueling Pianos where Patten (@Smashville) met up with us for drinks. To this day, whenever I hear the song "F*ck You by Cee Lo Green, I will always remember my time with this gang. Priceless.
Unfortunately, night came to an end. We had to say our good-byes with promises of returning. And we will return to Smashville. Such an unexpected trip, that hubby and I still talk about today. The people, the city and the hockey! For those who ever said Nashville is not a hockey market, you are dead wrong. Hockey fans in Nashville are as passionate about hockey and the Predators as the world is as passionate about the music in Nashville. Trust me. I live in Montreal, hockey mecca, and I was amazed at the dedication and passion of the fans. They know their hockey, they love their team and by god, they are louder and more appreciative than Montreal. And I am being honest.