If you're a guitar-picking, country-music superstar, born and raised in Phoenix, but currently residing in Nashville, and you have time off before your latest show in Omaha, how do you spend it?
For Dierks Bentley, the answer was simple. You get some sticks, maybe a ball of tape or a tennis ball, and you play hockey.
What else would you do?
"We were playing the Qwest Center back in Omaha," he said, "and it has this huge back stage with this really smooth cement. So we went and bought about a dozen sticks -- cheap sticks, for about $20 apiece -- and played hockey."
For this good ol' country boy, it was just another opportunity to squeeze his ever-burgeoning love of hockey into a life that moves as fast-paced as any. While he may have had anything but a "typical" hockey upbringing, he's been hooked on the game since the Predators moved in to share his hometown.
He is now on a national tour and working on his music, but he's found a number of tricks to help him stay up-to-date with his Predators and the rest of the NHL.
"For me, the big thing, (NHL Network's) On the Fly has been a huge help as far as getting caught up on the action," said Bentley. "That's TiVo'd on the bus. That's what I watch every day."
Pre-concert, pick-up ball hockey games and following the NHL through the magic of satellite TV and TiVo is only the beginning of Bentley's hockey story. He also competes in a men's league in Nashville, on a team called the Iceholes.
"When I moved to Nashville, and when the Predators came to town, a friend of mine was working in the front office and it happened that I started to really get into hockey," he said. "And it turns out that a buddy of mine, a guy I was playing bluegrass with at the time, was from Toronto and he was a big hockey fan and he had a bunch of extra gear. He told me one day, 'Man, there's a men's league just down the road, you should really sign up. I'll give you some gear.' So he did, and I did, and immediately I just got eaten up with the sport."
One can imagine the kind of stir that would be caused by one of country's hottest acts strolling into a Nashville-area ice arena. A multi-platinum star, Bentley released his fourth studio album "Feel that Fire" Feb. 3; the first single, "Feel That Fire" already is a top-five hit on the country charts.
Bentley said part of what draws him to the game is the fact that he can leave his day job behind when he goes to the rink.
His teammates especially allow him to be himself, to act with more freedom and to enjoy the game he loves.
"Everything about it -- obviously the playing is great -- but I love the sport, the guys, the camaraderie," he said. "The guys are great, and the thing is, it had nothing to do with music. It wasn't like I was talking about music. These guys could care less about what I did."
If following the game is difficult enough, having the time to step onto the ice for a full-fledged game can be even harder. But as Bentley has become more of a star act, his tour schedule has changed for the better.
"Over the last three or four years we've been playing more the arenas," Bentley said. "And that means we have more Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays off. Those days are the days our men's league plays, so it's been easier and I've gotten out a lot more.
"For me, the big thing, (NHL Network's) On the Fly has been a huge help as far as getting caught up on the action. That's TiVo'd on the bus. That's what I watch every day."
-- Dierks Bentley
"I actually play for two teams -- my main team is the Iceholes, but there's also another I skate for. There's two leagues nearby, there's Centennial and there's Southern Ice. The other team is the Mad Cows, but the majority of the time I spend with the Iceholes. It's been fun, and they get some pretty good exposure. They have their own Web site; there are up-to-date scores and stats."
A visit to the Iceholes' Web site will show a number of things -- Bentley plays left wing, was acquired in the fall of 2007, and has skated to over a point-per-game clip. Most important however, is "the work ethic that (Bentley) brings with him," according to the Iceholes' site.
It goes on to state that "When he is on the ice it is clear that he is giving 110 percent. This sends a message to the other team and sets the pace for ours. He is a perfect fit for the Iceholes, (sic) we expect he'll be around for a long time."
Bentley, in fact, has spent so much of his time around the game of hockey that he is beginning to pick up a hockey player's mentality. If you ask him about some spectacular plays he's made, he'll blush for an instant, and then mutter that it's all luck, that sometimes you are just in the right place at the right time.
But he also knows a good play when he sees it. Even if it is just "luck."
"There have been a few passes that I was very impressed with," he said. "In fact, at the Qwest arena, playing ball hockey, there was one to our lighting guy in particular I remember," he said.