Nashville Predators’ fans were ready to welcome the team back to Bridgestone Arena for game three of their playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Predators lead the series 2-0. Monday’s game was the first playoff game of the year to be played in Nashville.
Strong rain showers and lightning slightly delayed the start of the plaza party outside Bridgestone Arena. The event featured food, music, family activities and a chance to smash a car with the Chicago Blackhawks’ logo.
Fans were unfazed by the rain and still started lining up early outside Bridgestone Arena.
“It’s just Chicago tears,” joked Grace Vircik, a season ticket holder. “They are crying because they know they are going to lose again.”
Fans said knocking off the Blackhawks would be a huge step for the franchise.
“They always give us the cliché we are small market team, but we have big hearts, and I think that will put us over the top,” said Sam Jordan, a Preds fan.
The Predators have come a long way since almost leaving Nashville during the 2007-08 season. Now the franchise is ranked 26th on Forbes list of NHL Team Values, and is worth over $270 million.
“We’ve got the right budget, downtown is booming and our fans are supporting us like they never have before,” said David Poile, General Manager of the Nashville Predators. “I think all those ups and downs are past.”
The Predators are coming off a strong regular season that included lots of fan support.
“This year, we sold out all of our regular season games,” said Nat Harden, Senior Vice President of Sales and Youth Hockey for the Nashville Predators. “It wasn’t about 6 or 7 years ago, we were selling out about 6 or 7 games.”
Fans said the dream of bringing a Stanley Cup to Nashville gets more realistic each year.
“It would be like heaven to see Broadway with a Stanley Cup coming down it,” said Jordan. “It will happen. It’s just a matter of when.”
Game four is set for Thursday, Apr. 20 at 7 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena. There will also be a plaza party outside the arena before the game.