There's a commonly held belief around the game of hockey when it comes to viewing the sport - seeing it on television is one thing, but experiencing the speed, skill, physicality and finesse live? There's simply nothing like it.
Scott Hamilton believes that to be the case for figure skating too, and just as the calendars change to 2022, fans in Nashville and beyond will have that experience at Bridgestone Arena.
The 2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships will be held from Jan. 3-9, 2022, at the home arena of the Predators, and U.S. champions will be crowned in ladies, men's, pairs and ice dance at the championship and junior levels of the U.S. Figure Skating competitive structure.
And talk about an Olympic tune-up. The U.S. Championships serves as the final qualifying competition prior to U.S. Figure Skating nominating athletes to the U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Team that will compete at the 2022 Winter Games.
How's that for excitement?
"I was speaking with somebody recently, and they were talking about just how much they love skating and how much they love watching it on TV, and then they went to see it live and it changed everything," Hamilton said. "When you're on TV, you don't see the speed, you don't see the power; it's a two-dimensional image, but when you see it three dimensionally, and you feel the energy and you're in the rink and you can see the explosive nature of the athleticism, when people see skating like that, they're going to be hooked."
Hamilton, who is the founder of the Scott Hamilton Skating Academy at the Ford Ice Centers in Antioch and Bellevue, also just happens to be an Olympic Gold Medalist and U.S. Olympic Hall of Famer, has been introducing people to skating for decades with the same passion and joy he has for everyday life.
Of course, Hamilton's anticipation for the 2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships to take place in his adopted hometown will only grow by the day over the next eight months, and he can't wait for Nashville to show off to the skating world.
"Since I moved here, it was sort of just this thing, like man, Bridgestone Arena and the Predators and everything they do, and the city of Nashville, is all first class, and it would be a great thing for skating," Hamilton said. "I've been skating since I was 9 years old, and I love skating, so just the idea that we can do something like this is great. And then when I got involved with the Predators and the Skating Academy, it just became apparent that the timing of all this and the synergy and just the community, the ability to communicate directly with Predators management and everything else just, it just felt like the right time."
As one of the greatest American figure skaters of all time, Hamilton certainly has some pull in the sport. While he played an important role in attracting the event to Nashville, Hamilton says he also "knows when to shut up" in meetings, but so many in the city shared his desire to bring the U.S. Championships to Tennessee.
In fact, Hamilton says conversations with U.S. Figure Skating revealed Nashville to be No. 1 on their list as well when it came to potential host cities. The marriage seemed bound to happen, and 25 years after Bridgestone Arena hosted its first major event - the 1997 U.S. Championships - the top figure skaters in the country are coming back.
"Nobody throws a better party than Nashville," Hamilton said. "Look at the 2016 NHL All-Star Game and the NFL Draft and all the other things they do on a consistent basis. It's obvious that Nashville is a city of hospitality, Nashville is a city of quality and it's just perfectly positioned for things like this. Then, with Ford Ice Center Bellevue being built and open and operating, I just felt that was a great place for a practice rink and all the other events that U.S. figure skating does around the Nationals, and it just felt perfect."
Now that the U.S Championships are coming back to Music City, Hamilton sees more on the horizon, including a potential bid for the World Figure Skating Championships to a city he now calls a global destination.
Even so, Nashville still has that small-town feel, and the work Hamilton and so many others have done at the Ford Ice Centers in recent years - first in Antioch, and now in Bellevue - has expanded hockey and figure skating in Nashville and beyond to levels many never thought possible.
But some, like Hamilton, dare to dream, and it's amazing what can happen when those dreams come true.
"I look at it in a way of if somebody wants to figure skate, great," Hamilton said. "If they want to play hockey, great. If they want to just skate, learn to skate to be able to enjoy the ice on their own terms, great. It's all great, whatever brings people to the ice."
America's best will soon be on the ice in Nashville too, and before they head to Beijing to bring home Gold for their country, they'll perfect their craft on Broadway.
"When you look at the Winter Olympics in 2022, it actually begins in Nashville," Hamilton said. "The games begin in Nashville, and it's a pretty good place to start."
Tickets for the 2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships go on sale Monday, April 19, at 11 a.m. CT. All-session tickets include admission to all official practice and competitive sessions at Bridgestone Arena. It also includes the Skating Spectacular on Jan. 9, 2022. For more information, click here.