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Why sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks means so much to Nashville’s Predators

The Nashville Predators, who are undefeated in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 last night to win their series 4-0. It’s the first sweep of any kind in Nashville’s ten-year playoff history – series wins varied from 4-1 to 4-3, series losses the same. But this isn’t just any sweep: it’s a sweep over the most hated team in the NHL.

I kept seeing people on Twitter asking why Nashville fans cared so much about winning a first-round series. Consider this an explainer. I grew up about 90 minutes from Nashville and went to my first Predators game at seven years old. It took about two minutes of play for me to be hooked forever. And that was before the first “HEY, YOU SUCK!” chant. I’m at least mildly qualified to talk about this.

1. Chicago is, indeed, the most hated team in the NHL.

Why? Because their fans are dumbasses – read Popcorn’s retweets from last night free of charge. Their best player punched a cab driver, maybe raped someone, and already had to be cleared of one rape charge. During the regular season, it seems like they’re on national TV every single night. Actually, just read Dave Lozo’s post about this five months ago.

Look at a few tweets from the game last night and you’re bound to find an idiot of some variety letting you know the Predators have not won a Stanley Cup. I have been alive and conscious for 23 years and am aware of this. Therefore, I am more intelligent than you and more aware of my surroundings. Go punch a cab driver.

2. Chicago was responsible for perhaps Nashville’s most devastating loss.

I still remember everything about this, including where I was sitting: my parents’ three-seat couch in McMinnville, watching with my little brother. Nashville went on a power play with a minute left and I told him, excitedly, we were finally making the second round. I fear that I’m responsible for starting the most obnoxious eight-year run in hockey history.

This game can go to hell.

3. No 8 seed had ever swept a 1 seed in the NHL’s current format prior to last night.

This is somehow true. I thought I remembered the 2012 Los Angeles Kings sweeping Vancouver in the first round, but turns out they won 4-1. The Predators accomplished something that quite literally hasn’t happened before…if you don’t count 1992-93’s 1 vs. 4 seeded format…when the 1 seed Blackhawks were swept.

But what about the mean things Predators fans were saying to the millionaires?

They are millionaires and you can tell them they suck. Sorry to burst your bubble. The chants are awesome. You can read about the history of the chants here from Nashville’s own Section 303, also known as the Cell Block. They lead all chants in the arena and are good humans. Either go to a game and experience it or quit whining.

Do you have any comments on ESPN’s coverage of the team?

Why should I start watching the Predators?

Uh, they’re good. Also they’re fun, young (seven of the eight best non-goalies are 27 or younger), and the chants are Extremely Good. Plus every game generally starts by 8 PM Eastern.

Why does the state of Tennessee suddenly care about hockey?

The beauty of sports is that it connects people who otherwise would have little to nothing in common. I have a great relationship with my parents, but I don’t doubt it’s aided by us having group calls after every Predators playoff game. The team itself is infinitely meaningful to hockey fans in Tennessee, some who waited 40, 50, 60+ years to see major league hockey played here. The first playoff appearance in 2004 was a feeling similar to Tennessee defeating Florida this year – I’m serious.

There was a very real chance about ten years ago that this day never would have happened. The dude who owned (owns?) Research in Motion – they make BlackBerrys – tried to buy the team and move them to Hamilton, Ontario. I remember that summer really well, because every evening sports news segment on our local news affiliates centered around Nashville being unable to sell tickets consistently. The Predators were coming off two straight Playoff appearances yet ranked 25th and 21st in attendance. There was a solid month where it seemed like the Predators were gone.

Even after the Hamilton guy pulled out, the team was in ownership limbo for a while. A guy named Boots bought them and then went to prison. They couldn’t find a title sponsor for the arena after Gaylord dropped out, so for the final month of the 2006-07 season, you’d go to games and they’d announce it as the Nashville Arena – all Gaylord signs were taped over or covered up. A local ownership group including Boots (but later excluding him) now owns the team, making them (probably) one of the few teams in the NHL to be owned by a local group of people.

Anyway, this is a long way of stating that Nashville’s hockey history is troubled, stupid, wonderful, and now successful. Plenty of people who grew up in Middle Tennessee have moved westward or eastward to spread the gospel of the Predators. Jon Reed is even on the bandwagon. I really don’t know what more you need, because this could get really fun.

Do you feel bad for the good Chicago fans?

You think Jesus feels bad for Satan’s press coverage on Easter weekend?

Will Warren is FOX Sports Knoxville’s website editor. You can follow him on Twitter at @gyrateplus.

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