Nashville is known as the Music City, home to the Grand Ole Opry, and plenty of other country music greats, but on this night, we focus on one part of the city that has been dusted with some good ole funk, the Gaylord Entertainment Center. The GEC, as it's more commonly known, sits downtown, on the corner of 5th and Broadway. Just down the street from the historic Ryman Auditorium, the GEC stands out as much of the rest of the city does. The building itself is definitely an original, inside and out. The outside is a large gray rectangle, with a SaddleDome-esque arena peeking out from the top, resembling some sort of alien spacecraft. It should also be noted that on the corner of 5th and Broadway, there is a large radio tower/spire, that is attached to a blue glass cone, that is home to the Nashville Visitors Center.
Once inside, the building itself is equally unique, as the concourses are ridiculously wide, with separate areas for walking and standing in lines for concessions. Immediately inside the entrance is an impressive, three wall display of pucks, with names of each and every Predator season ticket holder, who waited out the NHL lockout and subsequent cancellation of the 2004-2005 NHL season. Unlike the simple one concourse design of some of the older buildings like the SaddleDome, Rexall in Edmonton, Joe Louis Arena, and even my home building, the San Jose Arena, the GEC is home to a separate concourse for each level. Getting on the long escalator to the top, the upstairs walkway is almost as large as its big brother downstairs. Concessions are not as populous upstairs, although there are still a couple hot dog stands, and of course, the beer taps. Unless I missed the others, the only beer on tap at the GEC is Miller Lite, a beer consumed by many on this night especially, as it was $2 beer night. Lucky for me, wearing a teal Ricci jersey. As I heard a couple of times as heckles from behind me, "Who is that Ricci anyway? Guess he's not too rich" (it should be noted that these sentences were followed by laughs, and high fives). Ah, true hockey fans, but I'll get to them later.
The inside of the seating area is just as unique as the rest of the building, as this was the first building I've ever seen with asymmetrical seating. The best way to describe the seating is that of a horseshoe. Three sides are even, and one end zone is different, cut off from the rest of the seats. The inside is a little funky, as it's unique to see such a design indoors.
On to the fans. A day later, I'm still not sure what to think of the Predator fans. Part of me enjoys their extreme enthusiasm, chanting quite often and staying interested in the game, but the other half of me thinks that it's just a bit too reminiscent of a high school football game. The constant barrage of "sucks", "losers", and other sophomoric chants ("it's all your fault, it's all your fault, it's all your fault" chanted at a goalie after the Predators score, "I'm blind, I'm deaf, I wanna be a ref) kinda make me feel like I'm surrounded by 17,000 blue and gold clad teenagers. Again, don't get me wrong, I love the constant enthusiasm, I just can't help but feel like it's a bit immature, and will ultimately be an image, I would feel, the Predator organization would like to shed.
The game itself was nothing too much to write home about. It was a close match-up, as expected, between two teams with deep playoff quality and aspirations. There were a few borderline calls that went each way, however the most prevalent seemed to be the disallowed goal early in the third and the Kyle McLaren crosscheck late in the same period. I still don't understand the goal call, as if the play was disallowed due to incidental contact with the goalie (as was announced by the PA), then the puck came free and was in the net before the whistle blew (which it did), then there should be no reason why it shouldn't count. If there is a penalty there, (which there wasn't), then the play should not be dead until it's ruled that Vokoun had full possession of the puck and had frozen it, or a delayed call that has play dead as soon as a Shark touches the puck. On the McLaren call, I still haven't seen the penalty, but as was explained to me by those watching on TV that the call was made not on the initial shove, but on the retaliatory hit (a crosscheck) on Kariya after hitting Toskala. Either way, if it was a warranted call, it was a very poor decision by McLaren, so late in the game.
On a whole, this was a fun experience. A cool building, inside and out, a cool city (which I'm going to experience more of now), and a cool atmosphere. Nothing beats the opportunity to hear "Dahr-cee Hoar-dee-chuhhk" (Darcy Hordichuk in the stereotypical Southern accent). Sharks are off until Sunday, when they match up against the 2003-04 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Game 5 of the World Series is tonight, with St. Louis having an opportunity to win it all, at home, in front of their fans. I'll be back tomorrow with a report on the Music City.
Go Sharks (go Tigers, sunshine, and go dahr-cee hoar-dee-chuhhk)
No offense meant by anything written herein. Like dude, I'm like, hella sorry for like, makin fun of the way you dudes speak. Peace out, brah.
It was raining, so the best shot I got on this trip was the sign out front.
Hey, a giant mouth that the players come out of, what a great idea, maybe the Sharks should try it with a... oh yeah.
The predator at center ice.
One of the loudest, rowdiest sections in all of the Western Conference.