I would have a difficult time determining if ever I have enjoyed a “doubleheader” more than I did on Dec. 30.
It was a football and hockey affair, with two great games and some nice reunion-type activities. I really can’t complain about the results either. The only thing was – it was over so fast.
Sunday and Monday was the Predators annual Fathers' trip. This one was to Chicago, which brought me into proximity with many friends. There was also the reconnecting with some of the “veteran fathers” I had met on previous trips, along with the usual telling of old stories. (Remember the first trip, in January of 1999? The Preds beat Dominik Hasek in Buffalo and Marty Brodeur in overtime at New Jersey?) We had a little delay getting home Monday night and into Tuesday morning. That night and morning turned out to be a short one, with adrenaline taking me through Tuesday.
By 11 a.m. on Tuesday morning, I was at Acme Feed & Seed on lower Broadway for a University of Notre Dame and Middle Tennessee Notre Dame Club Alumni Pep Rally. It was so great to see so many friends there, including a couple of my contemporaries from school, defensive end Ross Browner and cornerback Mike Townsend.
The stories were great, and they made me realize that thanks to my job with the Predators and the team’s schedule, I would be attending my first Notre Dame Bowl Game since the Sugar Bowl following the 1973 season. Ross and Mike played on that team for Coach Ara Parseghian, and the Irish beat Alabama that misty New Orleans night, 24-23, to take the National Championship.
After that, it was a walk across the bridge to LP Field and the game. Keep in mind, the Music City Bowl kicked off at 2 p.m. I had a hockey game to do that night at Bridgestone Arena at 7 p.m. Going into this, I realized I would not be able to stay for the whole football game. It was just a question of when I would need to leave.
I could not complain about the game. It was back-and-forth affair, and the Irish seemed to have discovered their quarterback of the future in Malik Zaire, who seemed incredibly composed to me. There was the controversy over LSU’s fake field goal at the end of the first half, but video review did not produce sufficient evidence to overturn the call (that would happen in Tuesday’s hockey game as well, costing the Predators a goal). In the third quarter, the score was tied at 28 when I left LP Field and began my 20-minute walk back to Bridgestone Arena.
I got to my broadcast location immediately, turned on the TV there, and was able to catch the entire final sequence leading to the game-ending/game winning field goal for Notre Dame’s 31-28 victory. Once again, the thunder had been shaken down from the sky.
Many cups of coffee later, it was time to sign on for the coverage of the Predators’ second-straight night facing a top Central Division team in the St. Louis Blues.
The Predators were coming back with Pekka Rinne for this one. Rinne had faced 42 shots the night before in the shootout loss in Chicago. The Blues had played the night before as well, shutting out the Avs in St. Louis and holding them to just 16 shots on goal.
The Blues would not be so stifling on this night. They fell behind on Shea Weber’s goal late in the first, but bounced back with two second-period goals to go in front. It appeared as if Filip Forsberg had tied it at 16:03 of the second. However, the officials on the ice had ruled no goal, and after a lengthy review, the NHL Situation Room in Toronto felt there was insufficient video evidence to overturn that call. Gabriel Bourque did tie it up three seconds later (on the scoreboard clock anyway), setting the stage for third period drama.
Filip Forsberg set up that drama, in a manner of speaking. He took a penalty for tripping T.J. Oshie, putting the Predators on the penalty kill. Paul Gaustad and Shea Weber each blocked shot attempts by Alex Steen, but then the Predators got possession and had a 2-on-1 going: with defensemen Roman Josi and Weber. A wrister by Shea gave the Predators the lead, along with their first short-handed goal of the year. The Blues threatened late with goalie Brian Elliott pulled for the extra attacker but couldn’t find the equalizer.
The Predators held on to win it and had found a way to put 87 shots on net in back-to-back games while taking three of four points in the two nights – AND it was one of the most enjoyable day/night doubleheaders I have ever had!