Hello, everyone! My name’s Jason Kirk, and I’m the new editor here at Predlines.
This might seem like a funny time to take over a hockey blog, and in a sense it is. After all, there’s a lockout on! But Nashville’s a different city these days than it was during the last lockout, and the Preds are a different franchise – for the better in both cases. And this lockout itself is different, at least for me.
I’ve been a Nashville Predators fan since the early days of the franchise, back when a poor college kid could park for free at the Holiday Inn lot at the top of Broadway, walk down to the Gaylord Entertainment Center, buy a cheap seat in the upper bowl and sit there for the first period, and move to the lower bowl during intermissions without getting harassed. My friends and I spent a lot of time on the road driving to and from games, listening to the call-in shows on our way home, and hoping we wouldn’t be required to talk much with our hoarse voices the next day. We grew to love our scrappy team, and along the way they got better exactly the way the coaches and management told us they would: through hard work and drafting well.
During the last lockout I had reason to take things personally. My wife and I had moved back to the Nashville area and purchased half-season tickets with my best friend, Charlie, who was dying of cancer at the time. We were both complete nuts over the team, fresh off getting to see home playoff games against the hated Red Wings, and we couldn’t wait to see what kind of excitement the next season would bring. When the owners (led by my beloved Preds’ own Craig Leipold) locked the players out and then cancelled the season, it meant Charlie would never see his favorite team on the ice again. That made me angry while he was still around, and the anger didn’t subside when the two sides finally came to an agreement a few weeks after he died.
I held on to that anger for a while but seven years have healed the wounds, if not the scars. I’ve managed to sidestep most of the pain this time around by drawing on the experience of the last lockout. I thought about picking up a ticket package during last season’s playoffs, but memories of the summer of ’04 helped me decide against it. And though I had my share of anxiety over the Ryan Suter and Shea Weber situations after last season ended, I knew regardless of the outcome that I wouldn’t see either of them on ice in October.
Things outside of my own personal orbit are different this time around, too. One of the owners driving the lockout may still be Craig Leipold, but he isn’t running things in Nashville anymore. The talk of NHL contraction that inevitably came up during this lockout didn’t mention my city’s franchise in the same breath as Florida, Phoenix, and Columbus, even though our team is still toward the bottom of the league’s revenue list. That’s what happens when you improve attendance, become a perennial playoff presence, and retain the services of your captain after fending off a mammoth offer sheet from a big-market club. I don’t envy the fans in markets on the brink, but I’m glad not to be one of them for a change.
I’m hopeful that the owners and players will reach a resolution soon, given that they’re finally going for the no-Bettman-no-Fehr strategy in negotiations as the deadline for making a season happen grows closer. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping up with Predators news and posting regularly here at Predlines, anxiously – but not too anxiously – awaiting the start of a new season.