Richard Exton and Cori Caldwell were on hand to take in all the action on Thursday, Oct. 25 when the Predators took on the Atlanta Thrashers.
Read below as the two students co-write their experiences.
So, I thought I was a hockey whiz. But after a night in the press box, I’m not so sure.
When I was approached by my journalism teacher about sitting in the press box during a Predators game, I was pumped. A free ticket and dinner was more than enough to get me to blow off my homework and watch the only sport that doesn’t eject players for throwing a punch. So I put my name down, and two weeks later I found myself with my comrade Cori Caldwell in front of the press entrance. We weren’t really sure who exactly we were supposed to meet before the game, but we were helped out in getting pointed in the right direction by some Preds employees. After we received our press credentials we got pretty lost looking for something tucked away in the depths of the arena. Before we got there I had some notion of the press box being an enclosed structure with nice plush seats, a massive stock of coffee, and the exciting buzz of reporters taking furious notes. What we ended up finding was something a little different.
First of all, there was no “box”. The upper right sections of the arena held long desks with internet ports and we soon realized that maybe we were, in fact, standing in the midst of the media’s central nervous system. A nice place card with our names on it then gave us a number to call, and Erich Wilhelm, the Community Relations Coordinator, finally got to meet the two high school kids he was in charge of. He led us down to the press dinner where photographers and color commentators munched on chicken and potatoes, and we slipped in quietly to grab a bite ourselves. However, as we passed under the public spaces above to our Pulitzer-winning supper, we found a whole other world. It was pretty amazing, and can only be described as a circus in a fallout shelter, a lot of activity in a very concrete space. We passed security guards, zambonies, players warming up with a soccer ball, and all the other activities associated with large public events with our jaws dropped to floor. We ate, Erich left us to go about with game tasks, and so we made our way back up to the press box to watch the game.
We returned to find the box filled with suits and little laptops being loaded up to report the upcoming match. We felt pretty unsophisticated with our pen and paper, but it got the job done. The initial action started with the players warming up in a circular ballet of shooting pucks from around the ice, and then progressed to their grand entrance through a giant saber-toothed tiger head. A great bass beat and bright lights brought the fans to their feet and the puck was dropped at center ice.
The Predators started backup Dan Ellis that night, giving Ellis his second career start to give the regular starter Chris Mason some much-needed rest. The teams came out fast, trading big hits and two consecutive crossbar shots, but Nashville ended up scoring first on a Jerred Smithson goal and never looked back. Ellis succeeded tremendously in goal, giving himself up the entire night including one instance where he laid out and prevented four shots from going in goal in one brilliant defensive stand. The offense also stepped up, adding another ice spanning goal by the physical Jordin Tootoo
in the second period, and then a third to the open net as time wound down.
We could not have asked for a better game to attend. The team was coming off a five game skid, and played great to pull off a beautiful win. Our proverbial “Sherpa,” Erich talked us through questions we had about the game, the Predators organization, and even his personal life experiences with the game of hockey.
The night ended with a low-key press conference where Coach Barry Trotz commended the team and its players, highlighting Ellis and Kevin Klein
for their exceptional play while reminding everyone that the team must have a short term memory when it comes to winning and losing. Trotz fielded questions from local reporters while we observed the formal atmosphere around and gauged that these professionals knew exactly what they were doing when they walked into the room. After all the politics Erich continued on to show us his office space full of cubicles, knick-knacks, and other sports memorabilia that cluttered the assorted desks around the workplace. It was definitely unlike any office I’ve ever seen.
On the whole, the experience was pretty great. We really got a feel for the way the professional sports press really works, and I was reminded of why hockey is such a great sport for Nashville. Here, people go out of their way to go to games because hockey isn’t exactly native to Tennessee, and because of this, they are all more than excited to be at the game. If it wasn’t the cute kids in Predators jerseys, the awkwardness of the “Kiss Cam” on a teenage couple, or the antics of mascot Gnash, it was the pureness of the entertainment. Everyone there had fun, and because of this I was proud to call the Predators my home team. It is a shame to think that such a wonderfully different and exciting sport would leave Nashville, because if anything was a precursor to the cities future it would be the change and intensity the entire Predators organization brings to the ice every single game.By: Richard Exton and Cori Caldwell