Of all the players and fans in Nashville for 2016 NHL All-Star Weekend, Brent Burns’ children may have had the most fun out of anyone thus far.
“My little guys were at Rippy’s dancing with us and with strangers for two hours the other night,” Burns said during NHL All-Star Media Day on Friday.
The San Jose Sharks defenseman is one of the many NHL All-Stars in town for the weekend who are genuinely happy to be in Nashville and enjoy the experience with family and friends. Sure they’re here to participate in the NHL All-Star festivities first and foremost, but they’re also finding time to appreciate Music City.
“It’s a great city,” Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban said. “It’s always a lot of fun. There’s always stuff going on in the city, there’s always a buzz to it; it’s just different and I love coming here. It always seems we have a great time when we come to Nashville.”
Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene is not only a fan of the city, but a fan of the music genre that helped to make Nashville famous. For him, the weekend presents an opportunity to not only enjoy the All-Star atmosphere, but also everything the town has to offer.
“This is one of my favorite cities in North America,” Duchene said of Nashville. “I love living in Denver, but to travel somewhere, anywhere I could go, it would be here. This is like a vacation for me. I really enjoy coming out here, and I love country music. I’m a country boy all the way through.”
So who is Duchene listening to through his headphones?
“I have a ton of favorites; Eric Church, Thomas Rhett, Jake Owen, Florida-Georgia Line, Luke Bryan - I’m probably missing a ton that are right now outside of my head. Chris Stapleton, I’m just a huge fan,” Duchene said. “Dierks Bentley is another guy… I was talking to him last night, so I know him. He pulled me up on stage with him a couple of years ago. It’s pretty great to be here.”
Nashville is famous for its music scene, but it’s equally renowned for the dining options available throughout town. Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin got a taste of a specialty as soon as he arrived.
“I went and had barbecue yesterday, and it was pretty good,” Seguin said. “A few people might get a little mad at me saying, ‘I should be partial to Texas barbecue,’ but I had to try it out. It’s definitely a beautiful city.”
Perhaps most familiar with Nashville, more than any of the other participants, is former Preds Head Coach and current Washington Capitals Head Coach Barry Trotz. The bench boss held court during media day, and he couldn’t be happier to see the NHL bring its midseason celebration to Middle Tennessee.
“To see how hockey has taken roots in Nashville, how it’s part of a fabric, how the organization is run, how it’s a big part of the community, how it has transformed downtown, all of those things, and the passionate fans they have, it’s special for me coming back,” Trotz said. “Just to be a part of it and to see how well this franchise is doing, you’re part of history.”
New York Rangers Captain Ryan McDonagh doesn’t get to Nashville often playing in the Eastern Conference, but he’s well aware of the special ambiance that exists in these parts, both in and outside of Bridgestone Arena.
“The passion this fanbase is getting with hockey, I’ve talked to some of the guys that have played here over the years, and it’s taken some time, but with that, you’re going to get a great hockey city here right now and well deserving of an All-Star Game because of it,” McDonagh said. “The energy that is here with the music and now sports picking up, it’s quite a combination to have. I think the fans and the players have really bought into that, so it’s fun to see an All-Star Game here.”
There’s something about the town that seems to evoke a certain response from folks. Perhaps it’s the hope held by budding country music stars in Broadway honky-tonks, wishing for stardom. Maybe the historical aspects play a role. The culinary elements don’t hurt either.
Even those who won’t be participating on the ice this weekend are likely to enjoy themselves. Just ask the Burns family.
“This city is very welcoming,” Burns said. “We love music and there’s no better place for music than coming here, and the food has been great. It’s just a special energy about the city. I’ve always enjoyed it and getting to come here on a more fun basis is great.”