The NHL Stadium Series games are coming soon and we’ll see the usual suspects (the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings) and two new faces (the Colorado Avalanche and the Minnesota Wild).
When I was watching the Winter Classic, I remember Mike “Doc” Emrick talking about places other outdoor games could happen. He did successfully predicted the Michigan Stadium game.
However, there was a line he said about Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky hosting an outdoor game and that got me thinking. Could the Nashville Predators be the hosts of that game?
The Predators aren’t a big name in the grand scheme of things, but do have one of the best defenses in the league, one of the better goalies and an exciting young core of playmakers. One would think that those ingredients would be enough for the Preds to get consideration for a Stadium Series game.
Commissioner Gary Bettman has always tried to generate buzz around teams in a non-traditional hockey market and an outdoor game involving Nashville could do just that. Nashville did a great job hosting the All-Star Game and hockey in the elements could be a nice reward.
There are some detractors that think Nashville couldn’t possibly have enough fans to host an outdoor contest, but there are some unique venues that could get people talking and fans to come out.
Here are five places that the Nashville Predators could host a Stadium Series game.
Neyland Stadium- Knoxville, Tennessee
The home of the Tennessee Volunteers is one of the biggest stadiums in America and not just college football. The place called “Rocky Top” holds 102,455 people, but has had 109,061 for a game between Tennessee and Florida on Sept. 18, 2004.
The end zone is one of the most iconic in college football with the orange and white checkerboard design. It would be a sight to see that end zone as part of the backdrop to the game. The overhead blimp shots would be fantastic to look at.
I’m sure Predators fans wouldn’t mind making the commute to Knoxville to witness a game at one of the most well-known stadiums in the country
This is another legendary college football stadium that has a lot of history to it. The postseason game that bears the stadium’s name has hosted some excellent college football matchups and holds nearly 60,000 people.
One advantage of the Liberty Bowl is that it’s within 500 miles of cities like Kansas City, New Orléans, Dallas, Nashville, Atlanta and Indianapolis. It would perfect for a game between the Predators and the Dallas Stars. You could easily get Stars fans to come over help fill up the arena.
It probably wouldn’t work for a Winter Classic because the game is close to the New Year’s Day period, but it could be an ideal venue for a Stadium Series game.
It’s a new arena that’s the home of the National Football League’s Tennessee Titans. The stadium holds 69,143 and is like other NFL stadiums. I put on the list because it’s right in Nashville and holds a lot of people.
The stadium looks kind of generic, but it would work to host an outdoor game. It has hosted U.S. men’s and women’s national soccer team matches and has done a good job at it, so they have experience hosting a big event.
Bristol Motor Speedway
The last two choices are non-traditional ones that aren’t a football or a baseball stadium. However, hear me out on these two picks.
Bristol is one of the more notorious short tracks in the NASCAR stock car circuit. There’s usually a lot of tension between drivers and sometimes we see a couple of fights. Why not host a hockey game there?
Tennessee and Virginia Tech are going to play “The Battle at Bristol” college football game on Sept. 10, and it is aiming to break the attendance mark of 110,000.
The event got me to think if the Predators should get in on the fun, so I asked racing expert and Ballpark E-Guides founder Kurt Smith if it could work.
Bristol Motor Speedway would be great fun to watch a hockey game in, and I think if any racetrack would be suitable for it, it would be Bristol or Martinsville. The thing is, though, Bristol has something like 110,000 seats, and I think the NHL might think they’re taking a risk putting a show in a venue that big and possibly having great swaths of empty seats.
I think it would make sense to have a game there because NBC (the American broadcast rights holder for both leagues) could promote the event on multiple broadcasts. Plus, they could boost each other sport’s ratings and make it a big tailgating event.
Churchill Downs- Louisville, Kentucky
This is the place that got me thinking about the article. The track is one of the most recognizable places in the world. The spires can easily be picked out by the most casual sports fans.
Talk of a game at the vaunted horse track could be as a throwaway line by Emrick to his broadcast partner Ed Olczyk, who is a race horse owner. However, I think the idea is not as far-fetched as one might think.
Like with Bristol, NBC owns the broadcast rights to the Triple Crown races and the NHL. Both horse racing and hockey have trouble staying on the minds of the casual American sports fan. A marriage between the properties could be beneficial to both of them.
There would be a lot of press about having a Stadium Series game at one of the most iconic venues in sports. It would get people talking, and Nashville would be one of the favorites to play a game at Churchill Downs.
The Verdict on Nashville in the Stadium Series
There’s concern that the NHL is running out of unique places to have these outdoor contests, but the latter two could bring some buzz that would get fans talking. I think the Predators, the NHL and the respective sporting bodies ought to take a look at making this happen.
What do you think? Leave your comments below.
Dan Mount is a Nashville Predators staff writer for The Hockey Writers. He is found on Twitter @DanMountSports.