Friday, November 26, 2010

Wrap-up post: Trip to Nashville 11/13

The past few weeks I've been traveling and working quite a bit, so I haven't gotten to all my updates - as a result, I'm posting twice tonight to bring things up to speed. After Minneapolis, I've had two more road trips, Nashville and Vancouver.

Nashville is a 90-minute flight or a several-hour drive from Chicago. As a relatively close hop, it's one of those markets (like Minneapolis) where Blackhawks fans tend to road trip en masse. I actually saw way more people in Blackhawks jerseys walking around the downtown district near the arena throughout the day - at least until game time.

From the airport to downtown, it's only perhaps 15 minutes, and there's a number of hotels within walking distance or a short cab ride from Bridgestone Arena.

This is Broadway - a street lined with honky-tonks, restaurants, tourists, shops (note: only tourists wear cowboy hats and boots), and colorful characters. And some of those colorful characters' colorful pets.

I had lunch at a Nashville bar-b-que institution, Jack's BBQ (416 Broadway), which was worth every single minute spent waiting in line, and where I spotted this neon NHL mask. Jack's is delicious. Highly recommend it if you're heading to Nashville for any reason!


I love country music, so I loved seeing the "Hockey tonkin'" sign on the Bridgestone.

Bridgestone Arena, main gate, with "Smashville" sign, before gates opened.

Bridgestone, before the warmups

Pre-game introductions.

Nashville is one of the few teams that has not only ice girls,
but "ice dancers" (cheerleaders) also.


Forget the Zamboni, I want to drive this bad boy.
A Preds fan told me they can fire T-shirts as high as the upper 300's from it.

Pekka Rinne, the Predator's Finnish goalie. Rinne made a splash in the Central division the past two years, going 52-29-15/.917/2.38 GAA and 58-32-16/.911/2.53 for the Predators. He faced off against fellow Finnish goaltender Antti Niemi when Nashville and Chicago faced off in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring; the Predators' tough play and steady goaltending almost won the series.

Tomas Kopecky, Fernando Pisani in warmups

Jordin Tootoo, a popular player on the Preds, during warmups. Whenever he took a shift, you could hear fans in attendance tooting train whistles. (toot-toot, get it?)

Predators win in a shootout, 4-3.

Overall, had a pretty fun time in Nashville. The locals were mostly great, the restaurants were awesome, and the hockey crowd at Bridgestone was highly energetic. Enjoying 70 degree weather in mid-November didn't hurt, either. I look forward to another opportunity to take in more games in Nashville - hopefully with more time to spend exploring the city a bit, as I didn't have a chance to see a whole lot this trip.

See my full set of pictures from Nashville on my Flickr stream.

Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN
Home of the Nashville Predators (NHL)

TeamNashville Predators (NHL)
ArenaBridgestone Arena
501 Broadway
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 770-2000

Seating capacity for hockey: 17,113
Cost of ticketsSeason tickets start as low as $19/seat.

Regular season tickets start around $30-35 and go up from there. One of the better bargains around the league.
Ease of accessAirport:
Nashville International (BNA) - approximately 9 miles / 15 minutes

Public transportation (bus) available to arena.
Parking costsParking available in several garages within walking distance of the arena. Directly across the street most expensive (around $20). Nashville is easily navigated by car. Shuttle service to some outlying parking, including parking across the river at LP Field (home of the Tennessee Titans).
Practice facilityCentennial Sportsplex
222 25th Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 862-8480

Practices at Centennial Sportsplex are open to the public; check the Predators website for details.
Pre-game meal options outside arenaNearly unlimited. Bridgestone Arena is directly adjacent to a stretch of Broadway loaded with restaurants and honky-tonks. Plenty of dining options in the area, but opt for BBQ, a Southern specialty. (I particularly enjoyed Jack's; the wait was worth it.)
Local hotelsHilton Nashville Downtown is directly across the street; a lot of teams stay there because it's readily adjacent to the arena. (This also makes it easy to get autographs from visiting teams' players.)

Within walking distance: Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Renaissance, Hometown Suites, Best Western Downtown, Doubletree, more. Plenty of other options around town if you have a car or don't mind public transportation.
Arena exteriorNortheast corner of the building is the main/plaza entrance with the building's iconic tower & saucer look.
What to do to fill time if you arrive before doors openThe Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum is directly across the street. There's also a few parks, plenty of honky-tonks with live music to be had for the price of a drink, the State Capital is within a few blocks, and plenty of shops in the area.
Arena facilitiesATMs
Arena dining optionsVarious food stands around the arena, typical burgers, hot dogs, ice cream, etc.
Team store(s)Main store located near main entrance. Selection of jerseys, T-shirts, etc. Worth noting is they not only carry Predators jerseys and pucks but many other teams as well. "All hockey is green to us," one staff joked.
Camera policyAllowed. Not sure on restrictions; I had no problem with my camera (4" lens)
SignsAllowed; bring your own - no sign-making facilities.
Allowed to go down to glass for pre-game picturesYes. When facing the benches, home team is on the left.
Special notesUnusual configuration of arena means one end zone is larger than the other.
Visiting fan experience notesLive band plays during intermissions; platform built into arena above the 100's on one end.

Team is unusual in that it has both ice girls and cheerleaders.

If you're looking for the "prime" hometown fan experience, try to get tickets close to 303, known as "Cellblock 303". Known for leading cheering and being very noisy during games.

Overall, as a visiting fan, I had a really good time in Nashville. If you stick close to the arena, it's touristy and occasionally cheesy, but you can enjoy good hockey, good music, and have a good time. There's more to do in the city beyond Broadway, though.

The Predators' goal celebration song is "I Like It, I Love It, I Want Some More Of It". It is then followed by a bit of Rock n' Roll Part 2 with the fans chanting "Hey, you suck!" a couple times. The "you suck" part is more AHL/ECHL than NHL, but it's so goofy that it's fun in its own way.

My only bad experience this trip was after Nashville won (that wasn't the bad part), I was standing near the end of an empty row, taking pictures as they announced the stars of the game. The post-goal/win song was still going on. A Preds fan snuck up behind me, and from a distance of no more than an inch or two, screamed in my ear "You suck!" along to the post-goal chant. I was so startled I almost dropped my camera (I use a pro-grade camera, so I'm not talking some cheapo pocket camera), and when I whipped around, the jerk was booking away from me as fast as possible. Not very cool. Look, you want to insult me for being a fan of the opposing team? I can take it. If you're funny about it, I might even have a sense of humor about it. But screaming in somebody's ear? Even worse, when they're holding expensive camera equipment and you might cause them to drop it? Seriously not cool. Every fan base has a few idiots; I've been fortunate so far to mostly not witness them.

But, other than that tool, it was a very pleasant weekend in Nashville.
Good experience for families?Yes. Nashville fans love to bring their kids out.

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