Nashville Predators Look To Make History In Stanley Cup Finals
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The Nashville Predators have a chance at making history in this year's Stanley Cup finals. Game one against the Pittsburgh Penguins is Monday night. If Nashville pulls it off, it would be the first championship for the franchise and the first time a team ranked at number 16 in the NHL won it all. Justin Bradford is a longtime Tennessean, and he's a Predator's reporter with Penalty Box Radio. Welcome to the program.
JUSTIN BRADFORD: Hey, thanks for having me.
SHAPIRO: OK, so Nashville's only had a hockey team since the late '90s, and the team has never been this close to winning the Stanley Cup. How does it feel down there right now?
BRADFORD: It's absolutely electrifying. This city has not experienced a run to a championship by a team here since the Tennessee Titans made their run of the Super Bowl the very end of the '90s. So it's been a long time coming. The city is just - it's ready to explode.
It's ready to explode for support for the Nashville Predators and just ready to explode for something that's really fun, especially when you see everything that's going on in the world right now, too. People need something to kind of cheer them up and to get them going. And it seems like Predators are kind of becoming America's team. It's so exciting to see everything going on in the city and what it's doing for it.
SHAPIRO: I have to imagine that hockey culture in Tennessee is a little bit different from like Montreal or Detroit. What's it like?
BRADFORD: Well, the thing that makes Nashville unique is the location of Bridgestone Arena - right in downtown in the middle of everything, next to Broadway where all the neon lights are, all the restaurants, everything. So imagine yourself walking down the street. You see these neon lights. You smell barbecue. You smell all these great foods coming (inaudible). You hear live music as you're walking into the arena. So just that alone helps paint the picture of how you can get excited go into this game.
And then after the game, what makes it different, too, you're right there on the streets - all the bars, all the honky-tonks, all the live music, restaurants. During the game, intermissions - it's not just advertisements playing on a Megatron. You have live music. So you have guys like Charles Esten from Nashville playing live music there. Sometimes you'll have people from different major bands, as well. You have country music stars singing the national anthem. It is a totally unique experience in every single way.
SHAPIRO: As we said, Nashville's only had an NHL team for 18 years. Was it an easy transfer to move all the enthusiasm for all the other sports that Tennessee has to hockey or has it been an evolution over time?
BRADFORD: It's been an evolution over time. The biggest thing here in Nashville is that people are obviously excited when the team came here but that excitement - what was important for that is that you're excited about. It's a social gathering. It's entertainment but then would breed knowledge of the sport. And that's what's really important is for the knowledge of the sport to evolve with that as well.
So once they started getting excited, then they started learning the rules more - started learning about other teams, started learning about the hockey culture and learning what prospects are like. And that's what we see now here in Nashville is that the hockey culture has bred extreme hockey fans that can compete with anybody around the league.
Even though people may not want to believe it, they know the sport here. You can hear with the way they chant and cheer at the right moments, the right opportunities during a game. So the way it's evolved has been obviously exciting and thrilling. The leagues have a lot to do with that. The organizations have a lot to do with that. And the fans have taken it upon themselves to do it, too.
SHAPIRO: OK, so what do you think the chances are against the Penguins?
BRADFORD: Well, I've been telling everybody my pick is Preds in six. And I say that not just as someone in Nashville, but as what I've seen from both teams, what they can offer and what Nashville has been able to do through the playoffs. So I will not skirt back from that. I will say Preds in six, and we'll see if that comes true.
SHAPIRO: Justin Bradford speaking with us via Skype. Thanks a lot for joining us.
BRADFORD: Thanks so much for having me, really do appreciate it.
(SOUNDBITE OF BOB DYLAN SONG, "NASHVILLE SKYLINE RAG") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.