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The Stadium Series Journals - Final Update - Heading Home.

A real-time (or as close to it as possible) journal of one man’s journey from Salt Lake to Nashville to watch outdoor hockey

JustinG

Follow along as JustinG. navigates through Nashville for the Stadium Series game. This post will be updated throughout the weekend.

Sunday 11:31 AM (CST) - Well, that’s it, time to head home. While the majority of the folks that came for this game will be heading back to the sunshine and beaches of Florida I’m heading back to the mountains where it will be...checks weather app...63 degrees on Tuesday. Awesome, but still no beaches.

What can I say about the experience, it was a freaking blast. Lightning fans came out and represented for sure. In section 307 there was a huge number of Tampa Bay fans that started off loud (although the sound of thousands of muffled claps due to people wearing gloves always makes me laugh), lulled a bit in the second period as did the entire crowd, and then ramped it back up for the third.

After a couple of drinks and a hot dog to fuel our journey up the ramp to our section we settled in to watch the “opening ceremonies”. The sound early on was a little weird, so any of the pre-game entertainment (i.e. random country music singers) you heard on TV, well we really didn’t hear all that well. They fixed it a little by the time the big acts went on in the first intermission, but it still wasn’t great.

That was the smallest of concerns through because the energy in the section was amped. The view also wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating. The numbers were easy to read and I was able to track the puck for the most part (especially since every time one of my friends went down to the concourse they came back with another beer for me). It was very much like being in a hockey arena, just further away from the ice.

The fact that it was a close game for most of the night added to the fun. The Nashville fans around us were welcoming and good-natured about things. The competing “juuuuuuuuuuuss” and “kuuuuuuuuuuuuch” chants reverberated throughout our section all night long.

As I mentioned, there did seem to be a bit of lull in the energy towards the second half of the middle period. The chilly weather and long Friday night spent at bars probably caught up with more than a few fans. As for the cold, it was definitely football weather chilly and proper layering came in handy (never underestimate the power of two pairs of socks). There was also the added benefit of your beer staying cold no matter how long it took you to drink it.

Overall, it was a tremendous time and it was great that Lightning fans traveled so well for it. That bodes well for their participation in future outdoor games (maybe even a true Winter Classic). While it may be some time before it happens in Tampa, I would recommend attending one if you have the means.

Thank you to everyone that said hi, thank you to Nashville fans for being gracious hosts, thank you to all of the Lightning fans that came out and made it a three-day party with a hockey game thrown in, thank you all for reading. Here’s to doing another one of these in the near future!

3:15 PM (CST) - The town is starting to get that Big Event Energy going around. Don’t get me wrong, the party has been in full swing for a couple of days according to some folks, but now, as game time nears, it’s getting kicked up a notch. The Nashville jerseys have joined the Lightning jerseys up and down Broadway. The Fan Area is bustling (people really want to see the Stanley Cup) and the lines for the merchandise trailers are getting longer and longer (the one we visited was already running out of stuff four hours before the game - no $107 hoodies for this guy).

As we wandered back to our hotel to drop off our merchandise, we stumbled across a bunch of cop cars, a trolley, and a huge crowd of people. Hey, it’s the Lightning’s hotel and they’re getting ready to leave the for the game! Sure enough, five minutes later they headed out the front door clad in their best denim!

After that it was back to the room to suit up for the outdoors and down a couple of beers before making the walk back over to Nissan Stadium. Let’s Gooooooooooo!

Saturday

10:20 AM (CST) - So, there was a plan to grab something to eat and then head over to Tailgate Brewery for the get together with the the fine folks at Renegades of Puck. That never happened. Well, the food eventually happened (Nashville Hot Chicken and much, much later a fried bologna sandwich), but we never made it off of Broadway. Good music, reasonably cheap beer and great atmosphere turned a quick 30-minute stop for a beer or two into a five-hour hangout.

There was a ton of blue and white around the city and a Stanley Cup made an appearance. Sure it was made of aluminum foil, but it’s still a Stanley Cup. It was fun chatting with random strangers about the team and the last couple of years. It seems the general consensus among the fans that traveled to Nashville is that the Bolts have a really good shot at extending the streak, Florida is the biggest challenge (but only if they get consistant goaltending), and Toronto, well nobody really cared about Toronto. Sorry Leafs fans.

Oh, and the answer to the poll yesterday was contact lens solution. That’s what was left behind (and also the one thing on that list hotels usually don’t supply for free).

5:57 PM (CST) - Made it to the hotel downtown and was super excited when I saw we were a block away from Bridgestone Arena. Then I remembered the Lightning weren’t playing at the actual arena, because, well, outdoor. Still, it’s fun to be back downtown in Nashville, a super fun town with plenty of bars and restaurants to run into fans.

Speaking of fans, exactly one person out of the five or six folks that I spoke with on the plane about going to the game (I was wearing a Lightning hat so they asked if I was going) was going to cheer on the Bolts. Didn’t realize the Predators had such a fan base out in the Wasatch Mountains.

I do remember that Lightning fans travel pretty well for big events from the Global Series a few years ago. Per my recollection there were way more Bolts fans than Buffalo Sabres fans. While we may not have the history of an Original Six team or the widespread appeal that teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins or Washington Capitals enjoyed as favored nation status with NBC, when it comes to showing up, Lightning fans do a pretty good job of it. Looking forward to running into some more as the night progresses.

One thing that you kind of forget when you are part of the #DistantThunder is exactly how many people really enjoy watching this team. It’s not unusual for me to go four or five months without talking to someone who knows who Cal Foote is or why Andrei Vasilevskiy is called the Big Cat. So for me, this is a nice moment to be surrounded by Lightning fans again.

12:00 PM (MST) - Amidst a small sunlit flurry of snowflakes I parked my car in the remote lot of Salt Lake International Airport, strapped on a facemask (complete with Tampa Bay Lightning logo) and began my journey to Nashville for the Stadium Series outdoor game between the Lightning and the Nashville Predators.

One of these days I’m going to see the Lightning in Tampa again. I don’t know when, but I will, but at least this trip doesn’t involve a passport. The previous two times I’ve seen the Bolts play live have been in Stockholm for the Global Series game against the Buffalo Sabres (and some say the turning point into creating the back-to-back Stanley Cup teams) and Vegas for a game against the Golden Knights just prior to The Pause in 2020.

I was hoping the first outdoor game I saw the Lighting play in would be in Tampa and the league would have found some way to deal with the heat and humidity that are the enemy of NHL-level ice even in the coldest Florida months. According to the NHL’s Senior EVP and Chief Content Officer, Steve Meyer, who appeared on The Bloc Party Podcast last week, the league has explored the feasibility of hosting a game in Tampa, but as of right now don’t think it’s a viable location.

Nashville, with it’s slightly more northern location, seems to be suited for an outdoor game, this will be their second, but rain earlier in the week was a big concern. It appears that the ice crew has made it through the brunt of the storms and clear and chilly skies are the forecast for the weekend.

Plus it’s a really, really fun town.

Throughout the weekend I’ll be providing some updates as what it’s like to be on the ground in Nashville, where reports are that plenty of Lightning fans have descended upon the city already. Some rough plans include attending the Renegade’s of Puck Homebase Freakout at Tailgate Brewery tonight, wandering through the Truly Hard Seltzer NHL pregame on Saturday, drinking cheap beer and enjoying good food, and, oh yeah, attending the game itself. I’ll post photos here and on our Twitter feed as well.

It doesn’t appear that too many folks are leaving from Salt Lake City to head to the game. I did pass one gentleman rocking a Lightning sweatshirt at another gate who was connecting through Atlanta and gave him the head-nod/wave. Also, travel tip for those of you heading out to Salt Lake to go skiing (Best Snow on Earth, baby!) or because you enjoy low-alcohol content beer, the hike from the security line/baggage claim to the B concourse where most Southwest flights land/depart is a legit 14-minute walk. Plan for it.

Whelp, the plane is boarding time to go for now. Stay tuned for more.

In a time-honored tradition, I managed to forget at least one item on this trip. Which one was it?

Poll

What toiletry item did JustinG. forget to pack this time?

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    Deodorant
    (4 votes)
  • 33%
    Contact Lens Solution
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Toothpaste
    (0 votes)
6 votes total Vote Now