If someone asked you 10 years ago who the Predators’ biggest rival is, you would have said Detroit. If someone asked you the same question now, you would say Detroit.
Ever since the Predators’ inception into the league in 1998, the Red Wings have been the gold standard, the measuring stick, the model franchise. They have also been the most hated team in Music City, and that hatred has only risen thanks to three playoff matchups and plenty of entertaining games over the years.
To the Red Wings and their fans, it’s not considered much of a rivalry. You know, because the Preds are the little brother. Last spring may have changed that attitude, though. Between the Preds finally knocking them off, along with the Shea Weber – Henrik Zetterberg incident, there seems to be more hatred from that side of the coin than ever before.
But in Nashville the Red Wings are the nemesis, and it will take a lot to change that. Preds fans take the rivalry personal, while the on-ice play usually does not disappoint. In fact, there have been many great moments of this rivalry.
Here are a handful of moments as Predators play-by-play voice Pete Weber walks down Memory Lane…
2003-04 regular season
On October 30, 2003, over five months before the two faced off in the playoffs, the Predators and Red Wings engaged in what is known in some circles as ‘Fight Night’. The Predators won the game 5-3, but that wasn’t the story. Nine fights and 210 penalty minutes were amassed throughout the game.
“It was the night before Halloween here, where the Red Wings totally lost their cool. Steve Yzerman slammed the penalty box door shut and ended up getting a misconduct, and the glass shattered in the door. That night I think it was Chris Chelios’ job to chase Scott Hartnell every place he went. It was the first time that we saw the Red Wings melt down with their composure,” Weber said.
A week later on November 8th, the Predators claimed a big comeback win in Detroit that kickstarted a hot streak. Down 3-0 through two periods, the Preds scored four third-period goals to dramatically win 4-3.
“Trotzy always loves to talk about hockey gods and that they were very aware upstairs of the relative lack of success in that building, and they flipped the switch in the Predators’ way. That was a classic case of chipping away. It wasn’t like two or three goals in three or four minutes. It was just like, here’s one, here’s another one and another and then that Walker goal to win (with 57 seconds to go).
“The most salient memory of that to me is seeing people getting up and walking out once the puck was tipped in the net by Walker and the red light went on. They just could not handle that.”
“Go up there and lose two games that they could have won, come back here and win 3-1 and 3-0. We go back to our hotel in Dearborn and pick up the Detroit Free Press and the headline says ‘Panic In Hockeytown’, because they thought it was going to be an easy series,” Weber said.
“I’m still deaf going into Game 4 from Game 3. I didn’t know what to expect; it was the first playoff series. Here we are in the bible belt and Game 3 is being played on Easter Sunday afternoon. Was anybody going to show up? They showed up and they showed up loudly. It was high amp electricity. I thought that maybe the nuclear reactors from Oak Ridge had all been moved over here. The noise from when the guys came out from under the Pred head – I was thankful I had headsets on.”
Back-to-back wins in Detroit
On November 21, 2005, a Preds-Wings game was suspended when Detroit defenseman Jiri Fischer collapsed on the bench due to cardiac arrest. In January of that season, the Predators finished the game on a Monday and then played again in Detroit on Tuesday, which was originally scheduled to be a Nashville home game. The Preds won both games to leapfrog Detroit into first place in the Central Division.
“[Those two nights were] perhaps the greatest of them all because it was supposed to be a 60-minute game and we weren’t going to come back with 12 minutes left in the first period, but we started a full 60-minute game with it being 1-0 Nashville.”
Winning back-to-back games in Detroit “has to be one of the most difficult assignments, particularly with that era of Red Wings teams. It was still Stockholm West with a good mixture of Moscow,” Weber said.
Game 3, 2008 playoffs
“That was unbelievable. As an announcer, you have not yet calmed yourself down from the first goal, and then all of a sudden there’s another one. I was wondering what it would have been like to be the voice of the Blackhawks when Bill Mosienko scored the hat trick in 21 seconds (in 1952), because that would have been pretty similar to the same sort of test.
Weber actually did not call the second goal because the broadcast team, with Chris Mason on the headset, “was conversing. There was no dip [in noise level]. Everybody talks about consistency – that was constancy,” he said.
“That was crazy. Absolutely crazy. I was in disbelief. One of the most memorable hockey games I’ve ever called, especially with the way the intensity towards that opponent is here. We still have that hybrid Predator-Red Wing fan for a reason, but maybe that was the night that began to win them over. I would have loved to see it in Detroit just to see how many people have remained in the stands,” Weber said.
“The classic changing of the guard is that photo of the handshake line of Lidstrom and Weber. I didn’t dream at that point that Nick would retire. That was the passing of the torch. I can’t think of a better way than summing it up as it was a long time coming.
“I remember just waiting for that time to run down. It’s kind of like the Miracle On Ice guys, though I didn’t have the same feeling of trepidation they did from the Soviet team. I was thinking, ‘Let’s get this over with now; let’s not take any chances of taking this to a sixth game up there because that very well could lead to a seventh game back here. Get it over with.’”
When asked whether the countdown of the clock in Game 5 was more nerve-wracking than Game 6 against Anaheim in 2011, Weber said, “More so because it was Detroit. The intensity of any Nashville-Detroit game is much like it was for me in Buffalo with Sabres and Bruins. That has much of the same emotion.”