After recently playing in the Winter Classic in Dallas, chatter is being brought up again about the Nashville Predators hosting the event in the future.
It’s only a matter of when, and not if, the Nashville Predators will be the home team in a Winter Classic or other outdoor NHL game in the future. After seeing the fan turnout at the Cotton Bowl, they definitely deserve one soon.
There are several reasons for making the case that Nashville should host a future outdoor game for the NHL. We already saw how the NHL All-Star Game went in Nashville a few years ago, and we know that downtown Nashville can throw a party.
Since they just played in the NHL Winter Classic, I wouldn’t expect them to get to host this event within the next five years. I’m sure the NHL wants to cycle through more teams before putting the Predators back in the event. However, there is the Stadium Series which is also NHL outdoor games, but not on the same scale as the Winter Classic.
Keep it in Nashville
I don’t see it making any sense having it anywhere else other than Nissan Stadium, where the Tennessee Titans play. I’ve seen ideas thrown out about playing it at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, or Bristol Motor Speedway. This makes zero sense to me other than trying to maximize attendance.
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Here’s the problem with that; there’s no way they’re selling out Neyland Stadium, or coming anywhere close. It’s not that Predators fans wouldn’t travel from Nashville, because they would. The problem is it wouldn’t have the same effect as filling out Nissan Stadium and making it feel more like a home game.
Having the game at Bristol Motor Speedway makes even less sense. First off, getting into Bristol is a logistical nightmare. There’s basically one way in and one way out, and there’s nothing really to do outside of basic tailgating.
If the Nashville Predators are going to host this, they need to approach it just like they did with the NHL All-Star Game in 2016, or even how the Tennessee Titans pulled off hosting a very successful NFL Draft in 2019.
You’re not having that kind of an effect hosting it in East Tennessee. It wouldn’t appeal to the masses having this event in Knoxville or Bristol. No offense to those cities, but let’s be honest. Nashville is where you have to have this event to maximize its success.
You have to keep the party in Nashville. Fill out Nissan Stadium and create a massive outdoor event up and down Lower Broadway like Nashville has already become an expert at doing. A filled-up Nissan Stadium will look much better than a Neyland Stadium that is 75 percent full in a city that can’t host a party like Nashville can.
Who should they play?
When thinking about prospective opponents for the Predators when they do host a Winter Classic, obviously you want to think about division rivals first. The Blackhawks immediately jump to mind, and the NHL would love that matchup.
Nissan Stadium would sell out within an hour with a matchup between the Predators and Blackhawks. Fans from Chicago would easily make the trip, and Predators fans would do everything they could snatch up every ticket they could.
A matchup with the St.Louis Blues makes total sense as well. They already hosted a Winter Classic in 2017 at Busch Stadium, and it drew an attendance of over 46,000 against the Blackhawks.
The Blues and Predators are geographically the perfect rivals and both fanbases are usually pretty hostile towards each other. This matchup would also have no trouble selling out and bringing a huge crowd to Nashville.
If we’re going to step outside of the division and think about an Eastern Conference opponents, then who better than the Detroit Red Wings? The team that was considered “big brother” in the early days of the Predators franchise.
In the first few years the Predators existed, these two teams had some fun battles. The Red Wings were one of the NHL’s elite teams, but the blue collar Predators always seemed to play them tough even though half of their home arena was filled with Red Wings fans.
No true Predators fan will ever forget the first every playoff series the Predators played in, and how they took a roster full of elite Red Wings players to six games. This would be a fun matchup, and fans of both teams would understand the animosity these two teams had for each other before conference realignment moved the Red Wings to the Eastern Conference.
I can’t see these fanbases being as tempted to make the trip to Knoxville, Bristol or anywhere else as they would Nashville. Keep it local and we know Nashville will deliver for the NHL and make it an awesome outdoor event for everyone involved.