What if the game that changed the sports landscape of Nashville wasn’t the All-Star Game or the Bridgestone Invitational?
That would be the end of that, right?
This fan was there to cheer on his team.
And, even more than the All in the Family, the game was about more than just the game.
This Nashville fan was here to cheer for his team on its first home game.
The team he was rooting for in the first game was, by his standards, the team that won the National League East.
“That was the highlight of my whole year,” said the man, who is not identified in this story because he is still trying to get his life together.
“I’m here for my team.
I’m here to support my team.”
He is right.
This guy was there.
He was cheering for his favorite team.
Now he’s going to be rooting for it again.
It was one of the biggest sports moments in Nashville sports history, the moment when the city’s sports and entertainment culture collided and made Nashville the city it is today.
It started with a handshake at the airport on a Tuesday in February of 2009.
The Predators were headed to Nashville for a preseason game.
“Hey, how’s it going?” the man asked.
“Not great, man,” replied his buddy, who was in his 20s.
“Don’t worry, it’ll be OK,” the other man replied.
The guy was the man behind the camera, and he was in Nashville to film the game in the United Center.
The first game of the year had been called off.
In the past, the Predators had won their first two games.
This time, though, the Preds were going to play a game against the Detroit Red Wings, who had won six straight, including the most recent game of that streak, a 6-3 win on March 14.
The man was there for that game.
He and his buddy were going back to their hometown in Nashville, because they had moved there after losing their hometown.
And the other guy was, well, his brother.
They wanted to go home, too.
“We’ve been away for three months, so we wanted to be home,” said this man.
They had arrived in Detroit on a Friday night.
“Where’d we go?” asked the man who had just moved to Detroit.
That’s where we wanted, right?”
“I think so,” replied the man.
“Let’s get out there.”
They drove out of the city and into a snowstorm.
It’s early April and the weather is terrible.
In Detroit, there was snow on the streets and sidewalks.
And at that moment, the man said, “This is my team!”
The man went to the Predts locker room and said, I want to be a part of the team.
He went back to his brother’s place in Nashville.
And his brother did too.
The Preds got the win in overtime.
It marked the first of three wins for the Predes, who were now 8-2-2, good for a 3.5-game lead in the race for the Central Division lead.
The Red Wings were 4-4-2 with the best record in the conference.
“When I saw that picture of him, I thought, this is a guy I’m going to root for,” said one of his teammates, who asked to remain anonymous.
“He was a guy that we all knew.”
But the man’s team didn’t get the win.
The next game was against the New York Rangers.
The game was in Buffalo, where the Predators were playing the Sabres.
And that’s where the man started his search for his hometown team.
The night before the game, he walked into the locker room.
The room was packed.
He stood in front of the entire locker room, waiting for the next player to arrive.
“The other guy’s name was Mattias.”
“Mattias!” said the other player.
“He’s a big dude.”
“What kind of size is Mattias?
Big?” said the player, who has yet to play hockey again.
Like, four-five,” replied Mattias.
“You can tell he’s a really big guy,” said his teammate.
“And that’s what I was looking for.”
The man’s brother and a few other Preds teammates, as well as the man himself, were standing in the corner of the locker rooms, chatting with other fans.
“Who was that guy?” asked one of those other Predis.
“Mattis,” replied this man, wearing his blue uniform.
“Did he come here?” asked his teammate who is also a Preds fan.
“Yeah, he came here,” replied one of these other Predts fans.
The other man was stunned.
“Oh, my God