Nashville has hockey fever in a fierce way. We love our fang fingers, SMASH hats and singing, “I like it, I love it, I want some more of it. I try so hard, I can’t rise above it. Don’t know what it is ‘bout the Predators scoring … but I like it, I love it, I want some more of it.” Thus, with hockey frenzy higher than it’s ever been in Music City, it’s time for a few interesting hockey facts from the archives of hockey history:
- The National Hockey League started almost 100 years ago, in November 1917. It is now made up of 30 teams in the United States and Canada with a 31st team being added for the 2017-2018 season in Las Vegas, Nevada.
- When the NHL started, it was solely composed of Canadian teams, which is why “National” made sense then, but can be a head-scratcher today since it’s an international league. Source
- It wasn’t until the 1979-1980 season that the NHL finally passed a rule that anyone entering into the league was required to wear a helmet. That’s right, previous to this, most hockey players did not wear helmets, leading to serious injuries. However, the way the rule was written meant that current players could be grandfathered in and were not required to wear helmets. Helmet-less players were still playing hockey into the mid-1990s. At the end of the 1996-1997 season, Craig MacTavish retired from the St. Louis Blues as the last hockey player in NHL history to not wear a helmet. Source
- 1959 was the first time a goalie wore a mask to protect his face. With hockey pucks being clocked at over 100 miles-per-hour, it’s astonishing it took that long, especially in the world of safeguards in which we now live. One goalie, Jacques Plante of the Montreal Canadiens, had one custom-made of fiberglass, and his coach finally acquiesced that he could wear it after Plante suffered an injury and refused to go back in without the mask. He was ridiculed by many, but he set a precedent that would eventually become the mainstream option for goal tenders. Plante had been a professional goal tender for 12 years before he insisted on wearing the mask. The last NHL game to be played with a mask-less goalie was in 1974 and the goalie was Andy Brown for the Pittsburg Penguins. He actually continued to play as a professional goalie afterwards, in the short-lived WHA hockey league until he retired in 1977, and yes, he played without a mask. Source
- Hockey pucks are frozen before play as they are rubber and this helps them not bounce on the rink. But, they do thaw and thus the average game uses 12 hockey pucks. Rule 13.2 in the official hockey rulebooks states, “Supply – The home team shall be responsible for providing an adequate supply of official pucks which shall be kept in a frozen condition. This supply of pucks shall be kept at the penalty bench under the control of one of the regular off-ice Officials or a special attendant.” Each team keeps at least 80 pucks frozen at 14° Fahrenheit. Source
- Hockey fans love to throw things onto the ice. If any player scores three goals, it’s called a hat trick and fans will throw their hats onto the ice as a salute. And, we Predators’ fans are wearing tons of SMASH hats these days, and we’d love nothing more than to throw ours onto the rink in our next game … While we can always buy another hat, witnessing a hat trick live is a rare treat. But, other, much odder things are also thrown onto the ice …
- Why do Nashville fans throw catfish onto the ice? (And WHO is sneaking dead catfish into the game in their pants? Ewwww!). Well, it all started because the Detroit Red Wings’ fans would throw octopi onto the ice here, as that was their home tradition dating back to 1952. Nashville has lots of Red Wings’ fans, due to all the autoworkers who moved to Middle Tennessee, and this was one tradition they brought with them. In response, Predator fans started throwing dead catfish at the octopi and suddenly Nashville had its own dead sea animal tradition. But, for anyone thinking about sneaking a dead catfish into the game, know that if caught throwing one onto the ice, you will be asked to leave, immediately. Source
- Plexiglass didn’t used to go as high as it does now in hockey arenas. But, after the memorable 1979 fight at Madison Square Garden between players and fans, with all but one Ranger climbing over the wall, penalties were assessed and the plexiglass got much taller at every hockey rink. Source
- And, as a Predators fan, let’s remember an exciting few days from the 1998-1999 inaugural season. On December 23, 1998, the Predators beat the Detroit Red Wings at home. As I was at that game (and the roads were quite icy getting there), I can attest to the fact that there seemed to be more Red Wings’ fans there than Predators’ fan. Yes, as mentioned, Nashville has a huge fan base for the Red Wings, and the Red Wings had just won the Stanley Cup for both the previous two seasons. But, the night was magical and the Predators won — our little Christmas present wrapped up in a 5-3 win over Detroit. Three days later, the Predators beat the Washington Capitals, who had been in the Stanley Cup finals with the Red Wings the previous season. That was our first little taste of things to come … (For more Predators moments, see this article here.)
- And speaking of the beginning of the Predators franchise and those first few seasons … there was another logo that was used along with the Predator. Remember this anyone?
So, Predators, we are glad you are wearing helmets, that Pekka Rinne has a mask, that the Plexiglass is higher now and that you are uniting this city, giving us something to cheer about, when we really needed it. With each game, you are making history. And, as we say down here, “I like it, I love it, I want some more of it!”