As much success as the Nashville Predators had on the ice during the 2014-15 campaign, the feats attained in the seats at Bridgestone Arena over the course of the season are perhaps equally as impressive.
The Preds ended the regular season with 12 consecutive sellout crowds, placing the season sellout total at 30 out of 41 home games, a new franchise record. In total, 691,028 fans watched a hockey game during the regular season at Bridgestone Arena, also a franchise record. On Dec. 30, 2014, a well-over capacity crowd of 17,401 were in attendance to see the Preds face St. Louis. That number is a franchise record too.
But perhaps most impressive is the manner in which the Predators Seventh Man provides their club with a home ice advantage. Nashville went 28-9-4 within the confines of Bridgestone Arena this season, the second best home record in the NHL in 2014-15.
Without a doubt, the standing ovations that the crowd create during a game can provide that extra spark needed down the stretch. Preds first-year Head Coach Peter Laviolette certainly took notice and made sure to discuss the backing during his recent season-ending press conference.
“The support that we got through the course of the year from our fans is second to none,” Laviolette said. “There were so many nights where I thought the fans really picked us up and gave us life. I felt like it was a great working relationship, and I think our guys really laid it out on the ice night after night. The building became full, it became alive, there was great energy and certainly, I’m grateful for that. I know the players were grateful for that and our organization is also grateful for that.”
Predators players undoubtedly concur with their bench boss, including goaltender Pekka Rinne, who believes Bridgestone Arena is the top venue in the NHL.
“It’s such a pleasure playing here in our building,” Rinne said. “I always tell everybody around the League and back home [in Finland] that it’s the best building to play in. I truly mean that. It’s a special building when the fans are going. Our record, you look at our home games and home record, and it’s pretty impressive. I think the fans have a lot to do with that.”
That advantage was seen once again in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this past April. Although the Preds fell in double overtime in Game One to Chicago, Nashville was victorious in Games Two and Five in the series at Bridgestone Arena, outscoring the Blackhawks by an 11-4 margin.
I was kind of surprised when I thought our barn was the loudest I’ve ever been in. I don’t even know if Chicago can match up with that and our fans are great. We just feed off the energy they give us every night and [Bridgestone Arena] is just an awesome place to be playing hockey. - Mattias Ekholm
Preds defenseman Mattias Ekholm, who participated in his first career Stanley Cup Playoff games this season, was taken aback by the atmosphere within his home rink.
“First of all, playing Chicago, you knew their barn would be rocking, but after [Game One], I was kind of surprised when I thought our barn was the loudest I’ve ever been in,” Ekholm said. “I don’t even know if Chicago can match up with that and our fans are great.
“We just feed off the energy they give us every night and [Bridgestone Arena] is just an awesome place to be playing hockey. They’re always supporting us, it’s loud and it’s just the way hockey should be, so it was awesome all year.”
Although Bridgestone Arena will be much quieter in the months to come, the 2015-16 campaign will arrive soon enough. If this past season was any indication, the success on and off the ice doesn’t appear as though it’ll get lost in the noise any time soon.
“Our fans are awesome,” forward Mike Fisher said. “They continue to get better and better, and I think so many people just embraced the team here and have fallen in love with the game of hockey and the team. As a player, that makes it so much more enjoyable for us and it means everything to us. The support we’ve had, and the sellouts and people waiting for us at the airport; just the way the community embraced the team is exciting going forward. We know it’s going to get better and better, but they’ve been huge for us this year.”