FILE — In this June 5, 2017 file photo, people watch a pre-game concert as they wait to watch the broadcast of Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals between the Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Broadway in Nashville, Tenn. The Predators host Game 6 on Sunday evening at the same time that the annual CMA Music Festival holds its concert headlined by Keith Urban and Brad Paisley in nearby Nissan Stadium, the home of the Tennessee Titans. The honky-tonk lined blocks in between the two venues are expected to packed with even more fans, and city officials expect a total of 100,000 people to throng the downtown streets. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

‘Epic week’: Hockey, country music collide in Nashville

NASHVILLE — The Nashville Predators’ improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals has blurred the dividing line between music and sports, a convergence that’s expected to hit a crescendo in Tennessee’s capital city this weekend.

The thousands of fans in town to celebrate the annual CMA Music Festival have joined with thousands more hockey fans celebrating in the streets and honkey-tonks of Music City.

“Nashville is a hockey town; they are crazy about the Preds here,” said country artist Darius Rucker, the former frontman of Hootie and the Blowfish.

“It’s great for hockey for a Southern town to be that much into the team and into the sport.”

Anticipation has grown with each game over which country music legend will sing the national anthem. Will it be Carrie Underwood, whose husband, Mike Fisher, is the Predators’ captain? Tim McGraw and/or Faith Hill, one of Nashville’s power couples? Maybe even Dolly Parton?

The Predators host Game 6 of the NHL Finals on Sunday evening as the country music fest holds its closing concert, headlined by Keith Urban and Brad Paisley. The entertainment district between the two venues will be packed: City officials expect 100,000 people to throng the downtown streets.

Country music fan Darlene Dye, who planned her trip from Dayton, Ohio, months before the Predators’ playoff run, said she’s enjoyed seeing the team embraced by country stars.

“Even the artists are like, ‘Go Preds!’ And they’re wearing their jerseys,” she said. “I think it’s a blast.”

The live bands in the lower Broadway bars have had to work their sets around game action, and Predators’ goals have been met with enormous cheers roaring through the city’s main commercial thoroughfare from fans watching on big screens.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said John Ettinger, a hockey fan who moved to Nashville from New York, has been to two previous NHL finals, and will attend Sunday’s game.

The Predators have won both home games so far but dropped all three on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ home ice. Fans hope their energy can help the Predators tie up the series and set up a decisive Game 7.

Cowboy Troy, who performs with country duo Big & Rich, said he’s confident Nashville can handle the descending on downtown Sunday.

“Nashville is equipped for this,” he said. “Nashville is ready for all the energy that is going on down here.”

City officials say they’re ready, too.

“Our job should be to convert the 40,000 to 45,000 out-of-towners to become Preds fans before they leave, and the Preds fans to become CMA fans,” said Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. “This is an incredible opportunity.”

Spyridon noted that the downtown events combined with the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival about 60 miles outside Nashville require scores of support workers, stage hands, and video and sound technicians.

“I’m not sure any other city in the country could pull this off,” he said.

Roads will be closed to make space for the overflow crowd watching the game on large screen TVs downtown, and fans are being urged to take public transportation and ride-sharing services to avoid parking headaches.

But the logistical challenges will be worth it, Predators CEO Sean Henry said.

“There are some inconveniences,” he said. “But I promise you, in 10 years when we’re talking about this to our kids, our friends, our grandkids, we’re not going to be complaining about where we parked or how crowded it was.

“We’re going to be talking about this epic, epic week.”

Just Posted

Red Deer College waiting for feds to finalize marijuana legalization

Like businesses, Alberta and municipal governments, Red Deer College is waiting for… Continue reading

Class size only part of the problem say Central Alberta teachers

Though the Alberta auditor general’s report points out that classroom sizes continue… Continue reading

Lacombe County promoting crime prevention measures

County pushing Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles

Red Deer doctor concerned about patient transfers to rural hospitals

Family physician says the move creates less incentive for expansion at Red Deer hospital

Fire permit season begins in March

Earlier springs in last few years prompted Alberta government to move up fire permit season

WATCH: Red Deer’s River Bend upgrades officially open

River Bend Golf and Recreation Area is the latest venue to be… Continue reading

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

As Olympics wrap up, still no coverage in North Korea

PYEONGCHANG, Korea, Republic Of — While hundreds of millions of the world’s… Continue reading

Supplier to NHL’s Calgary Flames breathes again as B.C. wine ban suspended

VICTORIA — The operators of a small British Columbia winery that landed… Continue reading

Canada’s men’s hockey team beats Czechs to win Olympic bronze

GANGNEUNG, Korea, Republic Of — Canada’s men’s hockey team has won the… Continue reading

Duncan apologizes for behaviour after drunken joyride in Pyeongchang

PYEONGCHANG, Korea, Republic Of — Canadian ski cross racer Dave Duncan is… Continue reading

In Pyeongchang, maintaining Olympic venues relies on a poor, aging workforce

GANGNEUNG, South Korea - Hockey players from Finland were circling with the… Continue reading

Trudeau’s fashion missteps highlight what not to wear on vacation

TORONTO — The traditional garb that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his… Continue reading

Stores make push in scan and go tech, hope shoppers adopt it

NEW YORK — Shoppers at self-checkout lanes scanning all their groceries after… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month