An All-Star weekend guide to Nashville
All weekend long, Bruins Daily will provide in-depth coverage of this year’s All-Star Game from the vibrant metropolis that is Nashville, Tennessee. From John Scott to Patrice Bergeron and the new 3-on-3 format, this year’s game has some interesting developments.
But there’s always a lot more to All-Star Weekend, especially with this year’s game. To get a better idea of the sights, sounds and atmosphere surrounding the ‘Music City’, Bruins Daily reached out to former Predators beat writer for The Tennessean and Puck Daddy’s own Josh Cooper for a Q & A on this year’s event.
Tim Rosenthal (TR) – We’ll start with a simple question, having lived in the area for a few years, what makes Nashville special?
Josh Cooper (JC) – There’s really no place like it in the United States. A lot of cities are very similar. Nashville is different. It’s more than just the musical scene — which is present everywhere. It has to do with the people. They truly love it there and never want to leave it. I think this creates an incredible bond amongst the city’s citizens.
TR – There are some fans who are a little skeptical still of Nashville as a hockey market, yet, from an outsider perspective, the Predators support over the years seems to be growing. During your time covering the Preds, what was it like witnessing that growth first hand both on and off the ice with the players and fanbase?
JC – I went to Vanderbilt University and started there in 2001, so my experience with the team goes further than my time covering them. I think the Preds have been helped by a lot of external factors. The growth of the city, expansion of local industry, northern transplants have played a role. Also, the arena being downtown certainly gave the team’s fans a nice central location for hockey and other social outlets. But I do think the organization, especially under former CEO Jeff Cogen and current CEO Sean Henry, moved to a new level. There’s a real personality to the building and a feeling that’s uniquely Nashville. Not that there wasn’t before, but I really feel like they enhanced these strengths and made a stronger bond between the team and the community.
As for the team itself, I think they need to make a deeper run in the playoffs to really break free of their ‘expansion’ stigma. Up until 2014, the Preds still had their first draft choice, David Legwand. They’ve made a lot of strides, but I think going deeper in the postseason will help a lot.
TR – Playing in the heart of Downtown Nashville can only add to the atmosphere. Of course, the NHL will have their fan fest and other events right outside the arena to only add to the experience. For hockey fans traveling to the area for the first time, what should they expect for their first visit?
JC – Probably a lot of music. Downtown is known for its honky tonks and bars. That’s the location where Nashville gets its public personality.
TR – Of course what would a discussion about the Music City be without some tunes? As big as their country music scene is, I’ve also heard some blues, rock, and other genres when I stayed last year in the Broadway area. Which places outside the arena would you recommend?
JC – I wasn’t a big Lower Broadway guy when I lived there. People seem to like Tootsie’s and Legends Corner. Lonnie’s was my ‘go-to’ dive bar when I was in college, but that closed down to make way for a boutique hotel. If you make it to Green Hills, the Bluebird Cafe is just a cool spot. A must-see if they have a live show.
TR – Any hidden gems that you’d recommend for music, food, or simply for sightseeing?
JC – Union Common in midtown was my favorite restaurant. Kayne Prime is one of the best steak places I’ve ever tried in this country. Also, the County Music Hall of Fame is totally worth the hype. Personally, I’d stay away from BBQ. That’s Memphis’s thing, not Nashville’s.
TR – I also hear there’s a Puck Daddy get together for All-Star weekend. Now is your time to put a shameless plug in for that…
JC – Friday night at Flying Saucer! It goes from 9 p.m. till midnight, and members of our party are getting a deal of $3 Yazoo beers on tap!
TR – Finally, there are quite a few on-ice storylines this weekend from the new 3-on-3 format to John Scott. With the new format and some interesting names in this year’s game, what headlines do you find the most intriguing entering this year’s game and skills competition?
JC – I think you have to go with John Scott. I can’t remember there being any precedence for something like this — with an enforcer being elected to an All-Star Game by a fan vote. I’m interested to see how Scott plays in the game. His day job is to hit people, and he’s going to have to tone that down a lot.
Big thanks to Josh for taking time out of his busy schedule. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaCooper.