On November 27th, 1998, there was a six-year-old boy who was highly anticipating going to his first NHL hockey game. The Nashville Predators were taking on the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and he was looking forward to seeing Charlie Conway run the flying V while Coach Bombay sat on the bench. He left that game with a new favorite team: The Nashville Predators. Since then, that boy's passion towards the team has grown each and every year. That boy was me.
Now 18 years of age, I've seen the Preds grow from the early stages of being the bottom feeders of the league to the Western Conference contenders they've turned into today. My generation is the first generation that has grown up with an NHL franchise in Nashville.
Last night, the Predators reached the point that fans have been waiting for since the 2003-2004 year when Nashville first made the playoffs. The Preds have finally gotten over the hump and advanced past the 1st round of the playoffs. It's an extra special feeling for me, and others like me, that have been going to games since their early childhood.
I've grown up with this team. I don't really remember a time when the Preds haven't been here. Being able to finally see them take that next step toward a Stanley Cup is an indescribable feeling. I've grown from the little boy who was scared to death of the goal horn, to the young man who acts like a maniac every time that horn goes off. Likewise, the Preds have matured into the team they are today and the hockey market itself has grown.
It's taken 13 years, but we've finally reached another path on that stepping stone to a Stanley Cup. Now, the march continues into unfamiliar territory. The 2nd round begins sometime this week, and Preds fans everywhere are more excited than ever before. Now, 2nd generation Preds fans are beginning to grow up and learn the game of hockey.
One thing is clear. Gary Bettman made a very wise decision when he decided that hockey would work in Nashville. So far, it has and it will only continue to grow from here. One day, my kids will become a part of the hockey family at Bridgestone Arena. On that day, I'll just look around and smile, remembering the six-year-old version of me standing around in awe of the game that I would grow to love.