by Jas Faulkner, contributing editor
In as many years, the NHL promotions people have featured two players who are and were “Who is that guy?” to the rest of the league and occasional whipping boys among the local fan community. Whether they meant to or not, in two short clips they have summed up what it means to be a part of the community in Nashville by showing the to-the-bone character that is the foundation of the team. They put the spotlight on the guys who make Nashville shine the brightest and who are often the ones who step back to let the stars get their moment. Here is Nashville’s first “History Will Be Made” spot. It debuted on February 22nd, 2011:
That winning goal was scored by a centre named Jerred Smithson. His place on the roster was primarily as a spear carrier for the flashier players. I first watched that spot in an empty arena while I was checking my camera equipment before game six. As a long time hockey fan and someone who had followed Nashville from the beginning in 1997, it was one of those moments that was, as one of my friends’ teen-aged kids might say, “really, really fraught”.
Aside from the fact that this was Nashville’s first Game Five win and that Smithson is a sweet kid, (so it really couldn’t have happened to a nicer person,) it was a moment when it became clear that the NHL community at large was seeing the Predators with the same filter as the people who had followed them for almost a decade and a half. What they showed was what happens when heart and character and hard work hit the ice. The joy in the rink was matched by fans in Nashville cheering at official viewing parties, listening to radios at work as Tom Callahan and Wade Belak came thisclose to losing their composure and online in remote parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and beyond. At the risk of sounding like Sally Fields during her Oscar acceptance speech for “Norma Rae”, it was a moment when Predsnation as a community said “It’s us! It really is us!”…and the NHL answered.
On Sunday another spear carrier got his moment:
The NHL posted this on their Facebook page with the message:
“Unsung heroes are what Playoff hockey is all about!”
I agree but think that it would be more accurate to say that unsung heroes are what hockey is all about. Klein is one of those people who is there, game after game. Like Ryan Suter and Sergei Kostitsyn and Matt Halischuk and a dozen other young men wearing Nashville Sweaters* he often goes unrecognised while his teammates make that triumphant skate to fistbump everyone on the bench. Klein’s goal on April 15th was a thing of beauty. It was a chance for people who know and love the team to say, “Yeah, he can do that.”
For the rest of the community, it encapsulates the shock that Nashville can and does play top tier hockey and can do so without playing dirty or being “those guys” in the negative sense of the word.
Should I do game summaries at this point? Y’all know what happened. Time to move forward and get this thing done. Drop the puck, mofos. Drop the puck!
Coming up next: Nashville and Detroit head into the final stretch of Series H, JR suspects Bobby of spiking his Dr. Pepper and somewhere in Nashville, a small Asian lapdog is making sweet, sweet love to one of my fleece house shoes. Until then, keep your brackets handy and your vuvuzelas at home where they belong.
*Please, please, please lose the Weeblo gear.