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Predators' run to Final music to ears of country singer Michelle Wright

Canadian artist brought love of hockey with her to Nashville

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

NASHVILLE -- Canadian country music star Michelle Wright brought more than her deep love of hockey to Music City when she settled here in 1991.

"As a Canadian, I like to say that I have a road-hockey scar on my leg," Wright said with a laugh before Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday. "I'm an authentic, genuine Canadian fan of hockey and someone who indulged a little bit as a kid."

She could have lied when asked whether the scar was from a slash, a scramble in front of the net or a frozen orange ball that was the nightmare of every kid.

"I hit my leg against the curb of the road when I fell," she confessed, shaking her head and laughing again.

Wright's earliest ambition in life was to be an Olympic athlete. When that didn't pan out, she followed her musical heart and grew to become a singing and songwriting superstar in her native country. Wright was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 2011, has been showered with more than 30 industry awards and featured in her own TV specials in Canada and the U.S.

 

[RELATED: Martina McBride sings national anthem before Game 3 | Complete Cup Final coverage]

 

The native of rural Merlin, Ontario, has also enjoyed success in the U.S. since her debut album, "Do Right By Me," was released in 1988. Her third record, "Now and Then" in 1992, featured "Take It Like A Man," which climbed into the top 10 on U.S. radio and was the No. 1 video on CMT.

She's back in the studio working on what will be her 13th album and first since "Strong" was released four years ago. In the midst of Stanley Cup Final madness in Nashville, Wright will stage a small, intimate show on June 7 during CMA Music Fest, performing her hits and some new material she's polishing for the upcoming album.

Like this city and its fans, Wright is transfixed by the Nashville Predators' Stanley Cup Playoff run that has them in the Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I'm absolutely a Predators fan," she said. "I'm pretty excited to have them in the Stanley Cup [Final]. It's really awesome. It's a must-see, definitely. I was working out a couple of nights ago. The game is on and I'm on the treadmill saying, 'C'mon, inspire me!' "

Video: Michelle Wright discusses excitement in Nashville

True to her musical roots, Wright says just the sound of hockey brings back memories of her childhood in Merlin, a small farming community near the "metropolis" of Chatham.

"When you put a hockey game on, no matter where you're at, there's just a sound that comforts me and takes me back to my childhood," she said. "There's something about the sound of hockey … the puck hitting the stick. I like to say it's a Canadian thing, but I think many Americans could relate to that, growing up and watching hockey themselves. It's something I take pride in. I take ownership of that game as a Canadian.

"When I hear the sound of hockey, it takes me places. I grew up watching it and went to a few games at Maple Leaf Gardens. I don't know that I can recall my first game, who it was, but I feel that it was Montreal against the Maple Leafs."

It's with great passion that Wright sees and shares country music's love of the Predators. The playoffs have featured global superstars singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" game after game and other entertainers towel-waving the crowd into a frenzy immediately following the anthem.

On Saturday, country giant Alan Jackson performed for a teeming, raucous crowd of thousands outside Bridgestone Arena, not something you'd see every day.

Years ago, Wright was asked by the late, legendary country songwriter Harlan Howard to perform the anthems before a Predators game.

"But I was on the road, unable to do it," she said with a sigh. "It would be quite the thing to sing the anthem in Bridgestone Arena, for sure."

Wright, a good skater who says she'd like to be a center if she played today, "to take charge right off the top," admits she'd have had a terrible conflict had it been the Ottawa Senators and not the Penguins who advanced to the Final to play the Predators.

"I think anybody would respect and appreciate that I would cheer for Ottawa if they could have been in the Final," she said. "If Ottawa and the Predators would have been in the [Final], that would have been pretty amazing." 

Wright watched Game 3 on TV Saturday, the Predators getting back in the Final with a 5-1 victory. It capped an incredible day in Nashville that saw country music legend Alan Jackson play a pre-game show on Broadway and superstar Martina McBride sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before the game. 

"It doesn't surprise me at all that the country music community, and all of Nashville, would embrace the Predators and make them a part of our lives," she said.

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