Not really a lot of Pittsburgh Penguins or Nashville Predators among my circle of friends. Most are original six stalwarts – you know, old.
Hockey, particularly playoff hockey – all sports, really – are more fun to spectate if you have a rooting interest, one based on something other than just anathema towards some player or players, or coaches, or historic slights (like my distaste for the Yankees).
So, heading into Game Five Thursday, I searched for something that locals can tie their interest to.
No former Smoke Eaters involved, but several former, and therefore of local interest, opponents from the BCHL. On that basis, Home of Champions hockey fans should lean towards Nashville. The Predators count four former BCHL players on their roster, three of them who have been regular contributors from the start of the playoffs. Even with top forward Ryan Johansen sidelined, the Preds BCHL-sourced regular players still number two, Colton Sissons and Matt Irwin, as opposed to just one, Justin Schultz, for the Penguins.
Schultz, of course, was a much admired enemy when he was a dominant force for Westside, Sissons, another Warriors’ grad, and Irwin, who played against Schultz’ Warriors for the Nanaimo Clippers’, likely made less of an impact on Smokie fans memories, but, still, two to one, in terms of players we have seen at Cominco Arena, in favour of Nashville.
Local fans of such as Bobby Orr and Larry Robinson might also lean towards Nashville, because the Predators play a more free-flowing, defencemen-involved kind of offence. Four of the top eight point producers for Nashville, two of the top three, are nominally defencemen. The Penguins have just Schultz (fifth) among their top 12.
There are the cities, though. Pittsburgh is a smelter town, like Trail, and, like Trail, has been beautifying itself out of its old industrial visage. Pittsburgh also played home for one of Trail’s best sporting exports, Jason Bay, launching him into a once unlikely career in the major leagues after most teams had passed him by. Nashville is country music Disneyland, with essentially nothing in common with the Silver City or Home of Champions other than many feel it might be a fun place to visit.
There, want a rooting interest not involved in anti-something-or-other, pick a justification above and get ready for game six Sunday. Don’t forget, though, while you are choosing, that local boy Glen Sanders, likely the reason for all the BCHL grads in the Predator system, has pretty big hopes involved in Nashville winning.