Monday, February 23, 2009

James Mirtle Heads South

Looks like the most famous hockey blogger in all of human history will be flying down to Nashville for what should be some worldview-expanding travel among Southern hockey fans. Not that Mirtle needs his worldview expanded; he already understands that hockey outside the inhabited northeastern corner of our great continent isn't an abomination to Beaver Deities everywhere:

Hockey in the south is a Canadian fascination. It's such a strange idea, after all, that what was created as a cold weather game can thrive in many of the places it does, especially when there are bizarre, nationalistic feelings of ownership over a league which has really been very, very American for its entire existence.
I've been writing about the NHL in places like Phoenix, Dallas, Raleigh, etc., for years now, and in terms of unique markets — case studies in the NHL's strange expansion plan, if you will — Nashville is right at the top of the list.
I think it'll be a fascinating trip.

Well-said. Hopefully Mirtle's Preds journey will be exotic and weird and mind-opening all at once. The Chronicle took a trip to Nashville last month and had a fine time. Even though the distance between Atlanta and Nashville isn't quite the distance between Toronto and Nashville, I found it to be an eye-opening trip, Nashville being so different to Atlanta.

In many ways Nashville is a much more "Southern" town than Atlanta, culturally speaking, and the passion and knowledge of so many Predators fans we met confirmed (to me, anyway) that hockey in the Southeast is an experiment that can work pretty well if the team consistently performs. The passion of the Predators fans I met in Nashville, both during the sold-out game and afterwards among common bar-dwellers who follow the team (nearly everyone I talked to knew a good bit about the team and the NHL in general), actually made me jealous. If only we could have that in Atlanta...

POINT BEING, hockey in the South is both a bizarre curiosity and a perfectly legitimate pursuit. I'm looking forward to reading Mirtle's impressions.

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