Two weeks ago in this space I declared fair week as one of my favorite times of the year. And now we come to another one - the return of NHL hockey.
The Nashville Predators will kick off the home portion of their preseason schedule with a doubleheader Monday at Bridgestone Arena and it couldn't happen quickly enough for my tastes.
While once I followed every sport equally, nowadays the year is divided into two portions as far as I'm concerned - Predators season and Predators off-season.
My hockey fandom was birthed alongside the origination of Nashville's NHL team. As a sports-obsessed boy growing up in a state with no major professional sports teams, I was a begger, not a chooser, when it came to the prospect of finally getting my own sports team to root for relatively nearby. So, when it looked like hockey would be the sport (before the NFL's Oilers made their move) I was ready to give the sport I only knew about from Sega Genesis games a chance.
I was a senior in college before the Predators and Oilers/Titans made their arrivals. Because of that, my Dallas Cowboys fandom was already very well established, making it difficult to turn that off and instantly switch to a new NFL team.
But the Predators offered a fresh start. I could only name a handful of hockey teams so there were no competing allegiances for the new arrival. I was ready to learn and grow with this new team who was destined to struggle for years before reaching a competitive level. As a lifelong Vandy football fan (thanks dad, for saddling me with that life of suffering at an early age), rooting for a team I knew had little chance at success was not something I was intimidated by.
My friend Chris Key and I attended the first game in Nashville Predators history on Oct. 10, 1998 and my life of sports fandom was never the same. Despite the Preds not even scoring in that first game, I looked at Chris and said, "this is my thing now."
I went to the bookstore (remember those?) the next day and bought "Hockey for Dummies" and studied everything I could about hockey. After attending 25 games the first two seasons, I became a full season ticket holder in 2000 and have remained one ever since.
My fandom runs so deep that my wife, Ashley, surprised me with a visit from the Predators mascot, Gnash, at our wedding at First Baptist Church in 2009. It was a wedding scheduled to precede a week of three Preds home games which we attended as part of our honeymoon week spent in Nashville.
I've now attended 488 NHL games - that's right, I'm the kind of guy who counts them. And I've been at every home Predators playoff game in franchise history. Along the way have been some spectacular memories, none topping the Stanley Cup Final in 2017.
Every season comes with a fresh hope that success can be repeated and hopefully exceeded. So here's to another fresh start and renewed hope. Let's go Preds!
Seth Wright can be reached at (931) 473-2191