Appreciation From The City of Brotherly Love: A Flyers Fan In Nashville

Nashville Predators left wing Tanner Jeannot (84) and Philadelphia Flyers right wing Hayden Hodgson (42) fight during the third period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators left wing Tanner Jeannot (84) and Philadelphia Flyers right wing Hayden Hodgson (42) fight during the third period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /
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Everyone has their favorites. The Philadelphia Flyers were mine, but I always had an appreciation for the Nashville Predators from afar. Now I’m here and covering them.

I’ve had incredible highs and lows as a fan of the Flyers. My lifelong obsession and appreciation has seen a team at the top of the league without winning a Stanley Cup, and at the bottom of the league without being awarded the #1 overall pick.

Coaches fired in season, players and staff suing the team, stars traded, poorly planned giveaways thrown onto the ice, and so much more. I grew up living just 20 or so minutes from the chaos, and at one time in my life was a season ticket holder. That was then, and now it’s Smashville.

Long story short, I’ve moved here with my fiancé for family and work and I’m thrilled to be a Nashvillian (Nashvilleian?) for at least a year. I also feel so lucky that a team I’ve had an appreciation for and watched from afar is now my hometown squad.

Here are a few reasons I’ve always enjoyed Nashville Predators hockey.

Having Stable Goaltending

Since the opening season with the tandem of Mike Dunham and Tomas Vokoun to Juuse Saros now, and with Pekka Rinne the rest of the time, the Predators fanbase has been spoiled with goaltending.

The Nashville Predators have had three goalies with 100 or more wins since the franchise started (Vokoun, Rinne, and Saros). The Flyers have had one in the same amount of time. Steve Mason narrowly surpassed the century mark with 104 wins in his 231 games played as a Flyer.

The Predators have started 22 goalies during their stint as a franchise. At the same time, the Flyers have started 32 goalies. Again the core three (Vokoun, Rinne, and Saros) have all been around for more games than any Flyers goalie in that span with Mason (231) and Carter Hart (201) being the only remotely close.

Even the backup goalies like Chris Mason, Dan Ellis, and Carter Hutton had strong and consistent careers.

Pekka Rinne has also won a Vezina Trophy and King Clancy Memorial Trophy, while Saros has been named to an All-Rookie Team and in his prime has a legit shot at some individual goaltending awards.

The only Flyers hardware to be given out is when Robert Esche and Roman Cechmanek somehow tied Martin Brodeur for the William Jennings Trophy for allowing the least amount of goals during the regular season.

Haven’t heard those names? Don’t remember them from their Flyers glory days? That’s because even those days weren’t all that glorious. Outside of the very good but still very young Carter Hart, no Flyers fan has been very comfortable with a goalie.

As a fanbase, our best goalie highlight is Ray Emery’s beatdown of Brayden Holtby, or perhaps Brian Boucher’s playoff-clinching shootout victory.

There was also that time that Ilya Bryzgalov set the regular season shutout record, but was so bizarre that his play could not match his humongous big personality. I’ve been jealous of the Preds’ stranglehold on solid and stable goaltending and finally, I’m enjoying that stability.

An Incredible Defensive Core for the Nashville Predators

For a blissful 145 games, Chris Pronger anchored the Flyers defensive core. That’s been the high defensively for the Flyers since 1999. The Flyers haven’t been a team that employs the top defenders in the league.

Even then, Pronger wasn’t a member of the All-Star team. The only All-Stars were Eric Desjardins in the 1999-2000 season, Kim Johnsson in 2001-2002 and 2003-2004, and former Nashville Predators Captain Kimmo Timonen in 2008 and 2012.

The Predators have had Timonen in his earlier years, but also a plethora of other top-notch defenders.

Timonen, Shea Weber, Dan Hamhuis, Ryan Ellis, Ryan Suter, PK Subban, Mattias Ekholm, and Roman Josi, one of the best defenders in the league right now.

While only Josi took home the Norris Trophy, players like Subban, Weber, and Suter were among the best in the league.

Even now there is a glut of veteran talent like Tyson Barrie and Ryan McDonagh. A few of their top 10 players from the last decade have been defensemen. The Predators have young talent coming up as well and depth to sort out for the upcoming season.

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The Flyers? Not so much. Their #1 defender had been Ivan Provorov, who was an unhappy camper who was recently shipped off to Columbus.

Tony DeAngelo was bought out. They traded Travis Sanheim, only for the deal to fall through and he’s now stuck with the team and on a no-trade clause.

Rasmus Ristoleian’s biggest contribution to the team is being really big and looking like a scary Viking pirate. He’s decent but the resemblance is uncanny.

Andrew MacDonald used to average 20 minutes a night, and at one point Brayden Coburn was a #1.

It’s been a long time since a Flyers defenseman was a top-10 in the league, while the Nashville Predators have had one in the lineup since 1999. When it comes to Preds hockey, the blue line is always a priority.

Appreciation For Toughness

Flyers fans always appreciate a good scrap and a guy who is willing to throw his body recklessly at someone else’s. I too am afflicted with that particular appreciation. The Predators have had plenty of those players in their history.

Take Jordin Tootoo as an example. He hit everything that moved and could get under anybody’s skin. Watching him play was always exciting and as a fan of violent collisions and fisticuffs, Tootoo provided that each and every night. He also originated Predators getting together with country artists who won American Idol, by dating Kellie Pickler back in 2007.

Scott Hartnell got his start scoring goals and agitating foes with the Predators before perfecting the art with the Flyers. The former 1st round pick amassed 1,534 penalty minutes with the two franchises (and a few more with the Blue Jackets as well) to go along with 561 points across the two teams, all while never shutting up and getting into his fair share of rough stuff.

You can throw out any number of names that have amassed big PIMs with the Preds, but just the list of tough guys alone lets you into the fact that the franchise and the fans value toughness.

You’d expect nothing less from a squad that has employed the likes of Wade Belak, Rich Clune, Stu Grimson, Darcy Hordichuck, and Brian McGrattan.

Everything Still Feels New

Everything that the Nashville Predators do and what the fans come up with feels new, fresh, and unique. The catfish throwing is derivative sure, but it feels quintessentially Tennessee in a way that an octopus could never relate to Detroit.

Converting Tim McGraw’s “I Like It, I Love It” into the goal song is a stroke of genius. The “Smash Car” during the playoffs is both fun, feisty, and charitable. Also whoever made the “Smash Jet” deserves a raise. There is a fantastic atmosphere in Bridgestone Arena and around the team, with the traditions evolving and growing in a significant way.

The Flyers are stalled. They developed the Broad Street Bullies in the 1970s and thrived until the lockout in 2004.

It is easy to have an appreciation for that history and the team dined out on it for a long time, but even that has run its course. Now they’ve been struggling to find the next great era of Flyers hockey.

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It isn’t entirely their fault. With the death of owner Ed Snider in 2016, the organization lost its head, heart, and identity. I think that they’re building a new identity with Danny Briere and Keith Jones helming “A New Era of Orange” which mixes tough guy nostalgia with the tastes of the modern fans. Still, they are facing an uphill battle. The only piece of Flyers culture that is working right now is the mascot, Gritty.

Nashville has an answer to Gritty with Gnash, a fantastic arena, and a fanbase getting more prominent and more creative with each passing year. They have 3rd jerseys that are unique and aren’t simple color rehashes.

Heck, I was here for the 2023 NHL Entry Draft and they had butter machines for the popcorn. My appreciation for the team and fanbase grows by the day. I’m excited by everything I’ve seen from the Nashville Predators and their fans, and I’m thrilled to be on the ground floor for the next season here at Predlines.