The Preds Give Me A Black Eye; Blues Fans Give One to Themselves (Part 1/2)


The Nashville Predators and St.Louis Blues duked it out on the ice Saturday night in the Preds’ second game of the season. The Blues’ Ryan Reaves (center) won this battle with the Preds’ Zack Stortini (left), but the Predators would win the war, 4-2 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis as Nashville begins the 2011-12 season 2-0 (Photo: Jeff Curry/Getty Images).


I came, I Didn’t See, We Kicked ASS!
Oye. Talk about your double-entendres. Saturday night the Nashville Predators came into St. Louis expecting a fight. When it was all over, it wasn’t just the Blues who came away hurting.

Nashville completed its sweep of its 2011-12 season-opening weekend with a hard-fought victory in The City By The Arch on Saturday, defeating the Blues, 4-2. In a season full of high hopes for their team’s return to the playoffs, the Preds’ spoiling of the Blues fans’ opening night fun left the full-house crowd at the Scottrade Center in an ill mood, and a  number of Predators fans even more so as a result of their counterparts’ unsportsmanlike conduct.

And then there was yours truly, who missed the entire affair, as during warm-ups before the game, a puck sailed over the glass and plunked me just below the left eye. I spent the rest of the night either in the infirmary, waiting for a cab, or in the hospital. I can joke about it now, but I was pretty lucky; I came away from it with nothing more than a few stitches…and a buttload of awesome black-eye metaphors to throw around (It’s GOLD, Jerry! GOLD, itellya!).

But more on that later; first, I have something to talk about that’s more important than me.

Stay Classy, St. Louis…
While my own misfortune provides the kind of you-just-can’t-make-this-stuff-up material a blogger like me dreams of, not all black eye metaphors are necessarily funny – especially the kind that connote shame applied to the actions of a person or a group behaving unbecomingly. The abusive behavior of a dozen or more Blues fans on Saturday night was utterly shameful.  From the section just above the block of seats in which 35 Predators fans that followed the team on the road this weekend with the Section 303 Roadtrip bus were seated, Blues partisans hurled insults and alcoholic beverages at their Music City guests all night long.

Other Preds fans making the trip individually or sitting in other locations in the arena reported harassment as well, including having a pair of sunglasses thrown at them to another instance of literally being spat upon after the game.*

So Much for Gateway City hospitality.

And please, before you call us wussies for not being able to deal with a little friendly derision, I’d invite you to go talk to the hometown fans in Columbus first; they actually seem to know the meaning of the term. Something else they seem to know something about is class. On our visit the previous evening to Nationwide Arena, Blue Jackets fans didn’t particularly enjoy our whooping it up at their expense either, and told us so — but they didn’t physically accost us for it either. They understood that good hosts exercise restraint in the face of frustration. That, ladies and gentlemen is class in a nutshell. Hurling beer, loogies, and a constant flow of F-bombs all evening is neither classy or even remotely friendly.

So, the bottom line is this: if you’d rather not have our business or our money coming into your city, supporting your hockey team, your hotels, your eating & drinking establishments, and the like – hey, no problem; you likely won’t be seeing us again anytime soon.

But please, do continue to make your annual trips to Nashville, St. Louis fans; come on down! We love to see you in your Blues jerseys, walking amid the honky-tonks, restaurants, and shops of Lower Broad, having the time of your lives. We love to see you sitting en masse at Bridgestone Arena, cheering for your team; trying – and failing – to out-cheer the very Section 303 fans whom you chose to abuse rather than compete with vocally on Saturday night at the Scottrade Center.

And even on those rare occasions that you do defeat us in our own barn, we may not like hearing your victory chants echo throughout the lower concourse as you file out into the night, on your merry way to party until the wee hours, but guess what? The only thing you’re likely to be showered with is our gratitude for coming and having a good time in our city.

Why? Because we WANT you to have a great time; and we WANT you to come back!

We want you to tell your friends what a fun place Music City is to visit; we want you to realize what a great place Bridgestone Arena is in which to enjoy a hockey game. We want you to have a great time in Nashville, but not only because it helps us; not just because in so doing you help support our economy. We want you to have fun because that’s what we believe sports – and hockey in particular – is all about: having fun.

I get that a lot of fans from around the league are rather put-off by the chants that our fan cheering section: Section 303, whose organizers put together the annual busload treks to Scottrade each season, throws out each game. I understand that you don’t like hearing the words, YOU SUCK directed toward your team. We get all of that; only an idiot wouldn’t see that all that could be pretty irritating.

And we’re not idiots.

However, as people love to remind us, Nashville is not a ‘quote’ traditional hockey market. Ours is a community steeped in collegiate sports fandom. Group cheers are a huge part of that tradition, so it was only natural that fan cheers became a part of our NHL experience when the Predators came into the league 14 years ago.

But here’s a news flash, folks, we DON’T THINK YOUR TEAM SUCKS; it’s just fun for us to say that you do. Yes it’s juvenile, yes it’s dumb, yes it’s irritating, but it’s fun, and that’s all it is intended to be. It’s all in the spirit of friendly competition; it has never been malicious in intent. As a season ticket holder for 12 of the Preds’ 14-year existence, no opposing fan to my knowledge has ever received a beer shower for cheering for his team in our building. We just don’t pull that crap. The fans just wanna have fun — and we want you to have fun too.

Que Alanis…
In view of our road trip experience in St. Louis, I find it even more ironic now to recall a conversation that I had with a gentleman Blues fan in Nashville back in the 2009-10 season. A few hours prior to a Preds/Blues matchup, I was walking into the washroom of a busy BBQ restaurant near the arena as the guy, wearing his team’s colors as I was mine, was about to walk out.

I asked him if he was here with a group; he affirmed that he’d traveled from St. Louis with a busload of his fellows, as has been a regular occurrence at least once per season since the NHL first came to Music City.

So I welcomed him to Nashville, wished good luck for his team and a good time for he and his friends while they were here.

This guy from St. Louis could have easily taken my pleasantries at face value, continued on the two extra steps between himself and the door, and headed back out into the restaurant crowd with little or no comment, but he didn’t. Instead, he made a point to pause and respond, saying something that I found as surprising as it was unexpected.

He told me that he really appreciated the hospitality he had always enjoyed from Nashville fans, as opposed to those in a place like Chicago, where Blues fans wearing their team jerseys are subject to constant and sometimes brutal harassment.

“I really like how you guys just let us come and enjoy the game,” he said. “Those guys up in Chicago can be pretty rough. It really makes it hard to enjoy a road trip when you’re always being hassled.”

Um, yeah, it does. Isn’t it interesting what happens when the shoe is on the other foot?

In my opinion, one of the most outstanding features of the Nashville hockey experience is the enthusiasm of its fans, both in the way we experience the game and in the way we treat our guests like friends – not enemies. Everybody know that, from the National Press to the players to anyone who takes in a hockey game here, they all know it, and they usually say so.

To be sure, St. Louis is an awesome and fun city in its own right. The few times I had visited prior to Saturday, I’d had wonderful experiences there, both at the arena and in the local nightlife destinations afterward. It would be a shame for both of us if that relationship had to end.

A Tale of Two Cities
On the other side of the coin is the experience we’d had 24 hours earlier in Columbus. Instead of verbally abusing us and showering us in beer, the Blue Jackets fans response was totally appropriate: they tried to drown out our ‘Let’s Go Pred-a-tors!’ chant with their own ‘Let’s go Jack-ets!’, which is exactly what what we expected them to do.

It became a competition. It was FUN.

I have to give special kudos to the section of fans sitting directly behind us at Friday night’s game who took a highly creative approach in our dueling chants battle. They turned our standard chant & clap, ‘Let’s Go Pred-a-tors! (clap-clap, clap-clap-clap)’ into, ‘SEX-U-AL PRED-A-TORS! (clap-clap, clap-clap-clap).’

I mean, that’s some awesome stuff, right there.

When it dawned on me what they were saying, I busted up laughing and turned to them to gesture my approval with a big thumbs up. Everybody was cracking up; yup, these guys, they GOT IT! Sure, not all the Columbus fans appreciated us, but you’ve gotta expect at least a few isolated, harmless jeers.

Beyond that, however, from the guy in the concourse who stopped me and said, “Hey, I’ve just gotta say this; I hate your team, but your new jerseys (the home golds) are awesome!” – to the guy I stood in a concession line with talking Tim Horton’s Coffee for ten minutes, the Columbus fans couldn’t have been nicer or any more decent.

But that was Friday. Saturday would be different, and not just by virtue of our experience with the fans, but in the special ‘impact’ the Predators would have on me, individually.

* Thanks to Kathy for the very sad update.

 

Next:  There is No ‘EYE’ in ‘TEAM’

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16 Responses to “The Preds Give Me A Black Eye; Blues Fans Give One to Themselves (Part 1/2)”

  1. Kathy October 10, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    Couldn’t agree more, AJ. Nicely put. I could not believe the hostility of the Blues fans.

    I think we all can agree that there are always going to be a few “bad apples” in any group. If this was one incident of all the Preds fans in the arena, you MIGHT be able to shake it off as an isolated incident. But it wasn’t isolated. EVERY Preds fan I know who was at the game had a similar story. From the couple sitting in the upper deck who had paper & sunglasses thrown at them, to another woman who was literally SPIT on after the game. EVERYONE had a similar story. This was not an isolated sore-loser… this was widespread all over the arena. It’s such a shame.

    The St. Louis Blues organization should take a good hard look at the story of what happened to Bryan Stow at the LA Dodgers game this March. While (thankfully) nothing we came across this weekend was anywhere near this level of violence, I’d bet you anything that the harassment of opposing fans in Dodgers stadium started with throwing beer.

    • James October 10, 2011 at 11:38 am #

      That was an interesting read. Sorry about the eye! Saturday’s game was my first Predator’s road trip. I was cussed at, flipped off, showered in beer, and threatened in the parking lot. So much for the classy Mid-West that the Blues fans always jeer about when they are in the tire barn. I won’t go back unless I am in a bigger group; It was a very uncomfortable experience.

      • AJ in Nashville October 21, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

        Sorry to hear that, James. I’m feeling more and more like I was the lucky one to have missed all that nonsense. If St. Louis fans don’t want us to spend our money in their city, I think they’re gonna get their wish, but it’s not gonna make their hockey team any better.

    • AJ in Nashville October 21, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

      It really doesn’t make sense, Kathy. I’m still shaking my head. At least in my next post I’ll have some very good things to say about the folks who treated me and my injury. I’m convinced that my experience which didn’t even allow me to watch the game was likely better than all the rest of our group who did but suffered abuse all night. Thanks for commenting!

    • Erin November 24, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

      Im from St. Louis, and an avid sports fan. And while I cant speak for all Blues fans. I can say that in general we are repeatedly called the most hospitable sports fans, by a number of reputable sources (ESPN, Sports Illustrated, BleacherReport). Im sorry to hear that some drunk half-wits ruined your experience here, but from my experience the hockey world is VERY different from other realms of fanditude. For instance in Chicago and Philadelphia, opposing fans have been assaulted and in LA some were even killed. So not to excuse the fans that were rude to you, but professional hockey games are kind of notorious for getting rowdy. Just be prepared to be shouted at, at a game where there are players called, thugs, enforcers, and assassins, whose sole purpose is to beat the daylights out of opposing players. It kind of leaks into the stands a little.

      • Erin November 24, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

        Again though sorry about the rough experience. Go to a Cards game!! Lol.

  2. cc October 10, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    Nothing spoils a night out at the rink like obnoxious rude (usually drunk) fans of either team. I see the Preds are in town on the 20th – hopefully all of your fans will be treated well. I know Nashville was an excellent destination for Nucks fans during last years playoffs.

    CC

    • AJ in Nashville October 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

      Thanks for the support, CC! You can visit our place anytime! :)

  3. Rich October 10, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    Unfortunate but not completely unexpected. There are A TON of Preds fans at home games that hate the “you suck” chant and want to throw beer on 303. Sorry to hear about the eye. Love the website.

    • AJ in Nashville October 21, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

      While I appreciate the kind words, Rich, I really don’t see the chants as a bad thing so long as you understand the motivation behind them, which I did my best to explain in this post (and which the leaders of Section 303 approved before I posted it). I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this point. However — and I mean this in all seriousness — if you feel that strongly about it, you should probably make your voice known and mobilize that ton of people (which I DO believe exist, BTW) to let the Preds AND/OR Section 303 know how you feel. That’s the adult thing to do; that’s the responsible way to get anything that you as a fan wish to be changed with another fan. Throwing beer — or even feeling like doing it — doesn’t solve a thing.

      I challenge you to really think about it — seriously. But the bottom line is, it’s all done in fun. 303 doesn’t throw brewskis on anyone. And never will.

      Thanks for your support and thanks for commenting! :)

  4. Vivian October 10, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    I am really so sorry to hear about this. We sat in section 108, row HH. We had very nice folks around us. During the game they talked about all of the great restaurants and bars they had been in in Nashville. We all shook hands before we left the game. One guy stopped me on the concourse to tell me how much he loved Nashville and had been there 9 times with his wife for a get-a-way. Even our usher was unbelievably nice. He told me that I might want to visit the pro shop for a new jersey before I went to my seat. We found the same friendly folks in the Sheraton bar where we were staying. All very nice. We were lucky on our visit. I am sorry it wasn’t that way for everyone.

    • AJ in Nashville October 21, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

      And y’know, when we came with the same 303 group last April, we saw little to nothing of this kind of behavior. It was much more like your experience, which is wonderful for you! I’m glad you enjoyed yourself. I just wish that some of the others didn’t have to ruin it for those who ran into trouble.

  5. GoldnI October 10, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    I went to a Predators-Blues game at the Scottrade Center last fall, proudly wearing my Steve Sullivan jersey. The Blues fans around me crossed the line from mere trash-talking, and even from obnoxiousness, into being outright hateful. Every time Jordin Tootoo took the ice, someone several rows back would yell “Hey Tootoo, where’s your brother?!”–a reference, of course, to Tootoo’s older brother’s suicide. And the fans around him laughed hysterically each time. I tried to tell the ushers how inappropriate that was, but was repeatedly brushed off. We won that game, but I was too horrified to enjoy it.

    • Vivian October 10, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

      Wow, that just breaks my heart. As much as we enjoyed our visit, this all makes me not want to go back.

    • AJ in Nashville October 21, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

      YIKES! This thing is getting more shocking with every comment. Thanks for commenting!

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