Nashville Predators Golden Saturday: We Were There


The Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins faced off at Bridgestone Arena Saturday night in the second Golden Saturday promotional event.

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My brother was in town this weekend from Atlanta, so I took him and four friends to the game. We figured we’d go early enough for the festivities, so three of us arrived just in time for the nondescript cover band outside the SoBro Nissan Entrance, which also featured an inflatable hockey goal–with a speed-detecting radar!–that buzz-cut ten-year-olds and buzzed twenty-somethings whipped slap shots toward with equal glee.

It was gloomy outside the arena Saturday night, and the dim clouds made the golden LED lights stick out a lot less than expected. The Ragnar Relay was wrapping up across the street, and amoebas of fans and runners clumped together around the entrance. Perhaps I showed up too early, but the buzz wasn’t there outside or wasn’t as powerful as I expected.

Everything changed when we entered the arena at about 6:15. Where the lights outside the stadium were dim and dreary, the concourse was splashed everywhere with gold. Most fans chose to forgo their navy or white Predators gear in favor of gold. Ushers traded their navy polos for golden. It got weird, in that extravagant way that only downtown Nashville can. Ticket-takers passed out horrifying Terry Crisp masks to the first few thousand to enter. An elderly woman in a golden jumpsuit and purple boa who may or may not have even worked at Bridgestone told us to enjoy the game as we entered the team store to look for (who knows what, exactly?). I remember finding our seats with the arena fairly empty, glancing at my phone for Twitter or something, and lifting my head not two minutes later to a seemingly full crowd. Smashville came to life quickly.

Oct 24, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins left winger Chris Kunitz (14) celebrates after scoring during the second period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 24, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi (59) and teammates react after a loss in overtime against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Bridgestone Arena. The Penguins won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The game was low-scoring but tense. The Penguins outshot us in the first period, but neither goalie had much work. A sloppy second period led to some prolonged attacks from the Penguins, and Chris Kunitz beat Pekka Rinne with a smooth one-timer on the 3-on-2 break. The third period was played at a relatively breakneck pace, but the Predators couldn’t break through. The Predators seemed to have chance after chance snuffed by Fleury, but finally, James Neal snuck a shot by his former teammate–extending his points streak to five contests–to tie the game. We lost our collective minds.

Oct 24, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators left winger James Neal (18) celebrates after scoring the game-tying goal during the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Bridgestone Arena. The Penguins won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The feeling in that arena during the third period of that hockey game is the reason people go to sporting competitions. For a while, the earth stopped rotating, and even Broadway didn’t exist, and only the 17,000 faithful in Bridgestone Arena were left. It helped that the Predators were flowing–they ended up outshooting Pittsburgh 39-25–and there was plenty to cheer for until Phil Kessel sent us home in overtime with the help of Evgeni Malkin’s blatant trip of Filip Forsberg on the break. The golden mass of fans poured out onto the street.

It’s not hard to imagine the pitch meeting in which the Golden Saturday idea came up. Someone surely just said, “Paint it gold.” There wasn’t much more to it than that. Gold is the distinctly southern glamour of Nashville, synthesized with the blue collar–and dang good–hockey team that calls it home. Golden Saturday is Smashville.

Next: Nashville Predators 3-on-3 Overtime Changes Speed

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