Tuesday started out as any other game day would for the kids of the Blizzard and Cyclones squads of the A-Game Peewee House League – spend the day in class, make it home from school, work on some homework, eat dinner and then hop in the car to head to their game. But Tuesday night would be unlike any other in their hockey playing careers.
As the teams were getting ready in the locker room, a cameraman swept through under the guise of a film crew shooting an upcoming TV commercial for A-Game Sportsplex. The crew shot video of parents tying skates, kids buckling helmets and joking around with their teammates. Then it was time to hit the ice.
“We all kind of thought something was going on when they were recording us in the locker room,” Blizzard forward Quentin Rummo told reporters after the game.
Warm-ups began as the teams stretched out and loosened up for the Tuesday night tilt. Parents found their seats in the cold stands, visited with others and settled in for what was seemingly just another night at the rink.
Then, as the clock ticked down in the warm-up skate, the doors of the rink burst open and in rushed a drum line, the Predators mascot Gnash, Preds Dancers and Ice Girls, and more than 200 fans decked out in Predators gold. Music erupted from the speaker system, as the teams looked around in awe while Predators coaches Barry Trotz, Peter Horachek, Lane Lambert and Brent Peterson stood side-by-side with their normal coaches on the benches and the voice of Paul McCann welcomed everyone to A-Game Sportsplex for the Nashville Predators SmashMob.
The Nashville Predators produced the SmashMob to give the 10- and 11-year-olds at A-Game a taste of what it is like to play in the pros. The idea was hatched more than a month ago during a brainstorming meeting at Bridgestone Arena and it quickly grew into a once-in-a-lifetime event for not only the kids and their parents, but the Predators staff. Only a small group knew the complete details of the night as the Preds hoped to keep this event as much of a surprise as possible. Using only social media, the Preds invited fans to attend a pizza party provided by Hunt Brothers Pizza beginning at 6:30 p.m. at A-Game. The only stipulation was that they invite as many people as possible, wear their Predators gold and bring something that makes noise. Once the fans arrived, they were moved to the upper level of A-Game to enjoy the pizza party and when the Preds staff began to hand out signs and noise makers the purpose of the event was no longer a secret.
“Tonight’s event was tremendous,” Nashville Predators Executive Vice President Chris Parker said. “It was hugely successful and we couldn’t have asked for a better turnout. This type of event speaks volumes as to how far hockey has come in Middle Tennessee and how the fan base has grown over the past couple of years. I think the fact that we were able to keep the SmashMob secret from the youth teams, while still getting several hundred people out to A-Game made it that much more special of an experience for all involved.”
Once the puck dropped, the kids were filled with an energy not typically seen on a Tuesday night as the teams seemed to feed off the atmosphere in the building. There were smiles all over the bench as the customary Preds chants and in-game music echoed across the rink.
“It was an incredible experience for the boys,” Blizzard Coach Matt Dunn told reporters after the game. “You could see the adrenaline flowing through them; they couldn’t keep the smiles off their faces. They were flying all over the ice. Having all that enthusiasm with the crowd noise really made it special for these kids.”
After a scoreless opening period, the Blizzard tallied two goals in the middle frame off of Sean Karaman’s stick. The energy didn’t die off in the third, as the Cyclones fought to even the score, the Blizzard stood tall as they claimed the 2-0 victory.
Following the game, the teams posed for a group picture with Gnash, the Predators Dancers and the coaches. After changing back into their clothes, the still giddy players walked to the post-game media scrum outside of the locker rooms, complete with reporters and the Predators back-drop normally seen behind Head Coach Barry Trotz when he meets with the media following Preds games.
“It was awesome,” Rummo said. “I couldn’t hear anything over the cheering.”
The energy was still pulsing from the players, their parents and the fans as they exited the building. While many of them still await the start of the NHL season, the Predators made a big impact with all in attendance and assured them that hockey never left.
Photo Credit: Justin Bradford and Jessica Jones