A lesson in comparative hockey violence for Predators fans

After tying the Stanley Cup Final series at two games each on the backs of two emotional, dominant wins at home in the first NHL championship-series games ever played in Nashville, the Predators returned to Pittsburgh hoping to convert their momentum into their first lead in this series. Instead, they fell flat. The Penguins scored three goals in the first period, and three more in the second on their way to a 6-0 shutout victory.

It was a very disappointing night for Predators fans, who reportedly had more people in attendance in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena to watch the away game on big screens than the number of people who were in the seats at the actual game in Pittsburgh. They certainly were upset with the result of the game, as well as with the way in which the Penguins– Sidney Crosby in particular– played it.

Crosby has been sparring with Nashville’s P.K. Subban throughout this series, but their clashes mostly have played out in the media and off-ice press conferences. Last night, however, things became decidedly physical, peaking with this moment:

Hockey is a contact sport, obviously, and the issue of fighting in hockey is a broader conversation for another day. I think most agree, though, that there is not a place in the game for Crosby’s behavior captured above.

Understandably, Predators fans are incensed and are calling for Crosby to be suspended for his actions. (Crosby also threw a water bottle on the ice in apparent response to what he thought was a missed penalty call against the visitors.) If the league decides to go in that direction, I would not have any objection.

I would remind the Predators fans that their team does not exactly have a clean record in this department, however. Five years ago, hosting their then-division rival Detroit Red Wings in the early rounds of the playoffs, Nashville ended a game-one win in ugly and embarrassing fashion. That night, it was Shea Weber who brutally bashed Hendrik Zetterberg’s face into the boards as time expired:

(In a bit of hockey irony, the Predators later would trade Weber for Subban, the victim of last night’s skull dribbling.)

I know from first-hand experience that Nashville hockey fans are good hockey fans who know the game. They’re justified in directing their anger toward Crosby (welcome to the club!), and I do want them to win the Cup because of what it would mean for the sport; a city I love; and all of my friends there, whether they’ve been on the hockey train or are jumping on now (again, welcome to the club!). All teams have had their dark moments, though, and hockey memories run deep. On the other hand, does it seem like Crosby’s Pens have more such moments than, say, Subban’s Preds? You bet.

Go Perds.

2016 NHL All Stars to receive impressive Nashville-themed gift bag

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The 2016 NHL All-Star Game, which takes place this weekend in Nashville, already was going to be a special event, with the shift from a traditional five-on-five game to a three-on-three tournament for a $1 million prize. Now comes news that each all-star will receive a pretty neat collection of Nashville-themed goodies.

The Tennessean reports on the contents, which include:

  • A specially designed bottle of Jack Daniels, which is distilled in nearby Lynchburg. All of the whiskey for these bottles reportedly comes from the same barrel.
  • A bottle of Winter Park Wheat beer, a specialty brew created by Nashville’s Yazoo Brewing Co.
  • A Goo Goo Cluster, a Nashville candy staple.
  • Most impressively, a custom, personalized guitar from Gibson (which was founded in Kalamazoo, but now is based in Nashville). These Les Paul-model guitars have a number of neat features, including a 2016 NHL All-Star Game logo, the individual player’s name (close-up of Shea Weber’s here), and specially designed back plates and truss rod covers.

If you want one of these guitars but aren’t a 2016 NHL All Star, your only shot is to win one of the two available at a charity auction that appears to be occurring after the game. If you’re not John Rich, literally or metaphorically, you’ll have to be content with watching the skills competition at 7:00 Eastern on Saturday and the revamped all-star game at 5:00 Eastern on Sunday and hope that none of the players pulls a Kyle Busch with any of these custom Gibsons.

NHL lockout perspectives: Bain Capital and Shea Weber

Yesterday, Deadspin ran a long, alternate-1985-style piece on what the NHL might look like today had it agreed to be purchased by Bain Capital in 2005. The short answer? The MLS. One vision of a Bain Capital-owned league:

With contract offers artificially lowered, European stars and the cream of the domestic talent would presumably go off to Europe for more money. The league would fall back from its warm-weather beachheads and dreams of national appeal; perennial money-losers like the Islanders, Sabres, Blue Jackets—hell, a third of the league hasn’t been profitable in years—might be contracted out of existence. The game might have reverted to a regional pastime for the diehards of the North and Northeast, a feeder league drawing only enough for the league to pay off its debt.

How is this relevant to the NHL’s labor conflicts?

The unsentimental analysts at Bain had exposed the uncomfortable fact about NHL lockouts, then and now: They’re proxy wars between big markets and small markets in which the owners try to wring money out of the players instead of one another. Bain merely put a dollar figure on the divide, and its streamlined NHL would have done the dirty work that the league could never bring itself to do: eliminate those small markets altogether.

The full exploration is available here.

One other item. Although the contributors at this site are scattered across the country, all in different cities only one of which is Nashville, Music City is our historical center of gravity, so this factoid jumped out of the article’s discussion about the market for top players:

Take Shea Weber, who just signed a 14-year, $110 million contract to stay in Nashville. That’s $30 million more than it cost to start the Predators franchise in 1997.

Perspective we like. Shea Weber? Not so much.

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The final 00:05.1 of Game 1 of Red Wings and Predators is all you need to see

Bdoyk asked me during the game whether I felt any split allegiances. I certainly have a love of Nashville that probably comes through in some of my posts on this site, but the Red Wings are an erstwhile pillar of my comprehensive sports worldview, and I can’t imagine anything that would ever change that.

That said, Shea Weber erased any doubts that may have lingered with his move on Henrik Zetterberg at the end of Game 1 last night.

The Predators shrugged off the move after the game, while the Wings appear to be letting it stew internally. Detroit fans can only hope that this is the sort of thing that will energize their team into the juggernaut of yore, allowing them to steal Game 2 on the road before returning to the much friendlier confines of Joe Louis Arena.

Friday Delta Jam

Today’s Friday Jam comes to you from the road, where I’m beginning my reverse reinactment of the second third of the great blues migration. I will be in Chicago tonight for the Red Wings and Blackhawks, and I’ll be in Memphis tomorrow afternoon for the Liberty Bowl, where Vanderbilt will face Cincinnati. Given the recent spate of hockey head injuries, the most recent victim of which is Nashville’s Shea Weber, featuring Warren Zevon and Mitch Albom’s “Hit Somebody! (The Hockey Song)” in this spot didn’t seem quite right. The other selection never was in question, however, and I was happy to find this particular clip because it was the first time I’d ever heard the tune:

I hope that happens to me exactly, minus the rain and the catfish. I’ve caught catfish. I’ve eaten catfish. Various preparations. I’ve tried. I can’t do it anymore. And the pouring rain. It always seems to rain for the Liberty Bowl, but this year is shaping up just fine.