The Nashville Predators brought out the who’s who of country music over the course of their Stanley Cup run. On Sunday night Luke Bryan started the party by performing on the rooftop of Tootsies just a few meters away from the game.
How does a Georgia boy fall in love with hockey?
LUKE BRYAN: South Georgia boy falling in love with hockey, yeah, that’s quite a stretch when you’d never seen snow on the ground and maybe a puddle in your yard would freeze once a year. But yeah, I think it’s been a slow learning process to go from certainly South Georgia, to move to Nashville. It’s amazing how many years it takes you to get all your Georgia loyalties to sports, which I’m still a big Bulldogs and Falcons fan, but certainly a huge Titans fan, and always — I never will forget the first time I saw my first Predators game, and you can never anticipate the speed of the game and the noises and the hitting of the sticks. It just totally hooked me right off the bat. From there, going to your first live game, to actually learning the game and learning how they set up plays and learning icing and offsides and your penalties, it takes quite a few years. And I think that’s what’s exciting about what’s going on here in Nashville is it gravitates fans to, A, you have people all across everywhere — I mean, pulling for the Predators, and they’re learning the game even better in the process.
When was that first game you saw, and how has it grown for you over the years?
LUKE BRYAN:Well, for me, it was — I guess it was probably — I moved to Nashville in the fall of 2001, and I would say it was 2002, that hockey season. And like I said, what’s interesting, the best way to learn hockey if you’re a Southerner is go get the NHL Live video game. The best way to learn a sport that you’re not familiar with is certainly go get the video game, and it kind of self — so we started having — out on the road started having huge battles, NHL Live battles. So that kind of taught us the game. And like I said, through the years, I’ve really been impressed with, gosh, there were years that the Preds would give season ticket holders rebates if they didn’t make — this town has worked hard to get to this moment, and the owners of the team and the players. It’s so inspiring to see where they started and where they’ve come, and when you think about a southern team getting this far, it’s such a rarity. And like I said, I don’t want to spend — it’s not like I know all the nuances of hockey, either, I still have a lot to learn. But I’ll tell you, it is so amazing watching my boys, just their passion for it, and you know, they’re hooked. They’ll be hooked forever. And that’s what’s going on now. Nashville is laying a foundation for all these kids to start wanting to watch at home, and that’s exciting for the whole franchise and I believe the whole NHL.
You mentioned the Southern game here. Do you notice any similarities between college football, both the game and the way the fans and the city sort of rally around it?
LUKE BRYAN: Well, yeah, this atmosphere that we’ve had the whole Playoffs in Bridgestone has — I don’t know if you could mimic it anywhere. I guess you could — the only thing I could compare it to is the SEC Championship-type moments and certainly National Championship moments in college football, and that’s where I draw a lot of my sports. You look back over your lifetime of huge sports moments, and I’ve used this analogy a lot, being a Georgia kid, when the Braves took off in 1991, and if you didn’t have a Braves t-shirt walking down the hall of your high school, you weren’t in the cool club. And that’s the best kind of analogy that I’ve compared this Predators craze to. You know, you see every — you see furniture stores around here selling Preds gear. So, yeah, I mean, totally it’s that vibe. Certainly just a crazy, energetic vibe in Bridgestone. And I’ll tell you, you know, when they clinched to — I was at the game where they clinched to go to the Finals, and I mean, we had people in our suite crying, and it was really emotional. A lot of energy. It’s been an amazing ride. So fun.
You’ve had a pretty busy week with CMT and CMAs. What’s it like to bridge the gap between Nashville’s two biggest events this week with playing here tonight?
LUKE BRYAN: Yeah, I think it adds kind of to the fun. I mean, you know all the bars in the whole city of Nashville is loving all this. I mean, first of all, it starts by the CMT Awards having to scramble and change venues. But the main thing with me, I did CMT awards, I did CMA Fest. I went on stage at like 12:00 midnight, then I took my bus to Little Rock, Tulsa last night, and back here. But, hey, that’s the life of a working country music musician. And when we got the opportunity, when the call came in that NBC wanted to do this thing, I was like, hey, I’ve got to pull out any stop I can do to get some tickets, get in the room. No, but we — I said, certainly, I don’t care if I’m worn down and haven’t slept. If my voice is half gone, I’m going to get up there and have fun. I was just honored to be a part of the celebration, and I think it’s — I mean, I think there were some numbers circulating that it was the — what was it, quote me if I’m wrong, but like the second most viewed here in Nashville — second highest viewed Stanley Cup Finals. You know, to be a part of such a high viewership and get to showcase your music and create a vibe.
You mentioned your boys; how many do you have, how old are they, and what are they doing hockey-wise?
LUKE BRYAN: Oh, so three weeks ago, I’d been promising, I said, Boys, we’re going to get geared up for some house — for some living room hockey. I got them up. We went into town. I won’t name the sporting store we went to. But you know, I went and got the sticks, got the tape, got the — I got the mini-goals indoor, I got the big goals. And my wife and I for the last three weeks, we have been — we don’t need an alarm clock. All we do is hear feet stomping. We hear “goal.” And so they are building — we come into our living room and they have picked our couch up and moved it over 15 feet, and they have a full — they take all the cushions off the couch, built the rink, and that’s what they have been doing for three weeks. I’ll tell you, one night, we got pretty heated in there, and watching my six-year-old be the goalie, and they got so good at being the goalie, we had to make a new rule where you had to stand up, you know, because we went like 15 minutes without a goal getting scored. But when they got up on their feet — but we’ve had a blast. I’ve sat there and watched them three hours one night. Yeah, my nephew lives with me full time. He’s 15, and he’s in there bodying up, and I just calm him down every now and then, so my 15- year-old, my nine-year-old, my six-year-old. We’re going to probably need a new rug in the living room before it’s all said and done.