NASHVILLE — The Chicago Blackhawks played a big Central Division game against the Nashville Predators on Saturday, but for Hawks fans who tried to attend in person, it may not have been easy to get in. Over the past few years, the Predators have tried hard to limit the number of rival fans who buy tickets to their games, especially when the Blackhawks come to town.
This isn’t just something that Chicago fans have had to deal with, though, as the Predators have a history of trying to keep out traveling fans of popular rivals.
The policy targeting Blackhawks fans was implemented in 2013 and rose to prominence during the playoff series that featured the two teams. According to Willy Daunic, color commentator for the Predators, the ticket policy was started when the team was struggling and the Blackhawks were having a historic season.
“There were a lot of Predator fans that expressed dislike or concern that the Blackhawks were taking up so many of the seats,” Daunic said. “It was like, ‘Hey this isn’t a comfortable atmosphere,’ it’s not anything personal against those fans, you just wanted to be around your own fans.
“I think at that point the Predators really tried to do the best they could to get Predator fans in those seats when they played the Blackhawks.”
The Predators listened and limited ticket sales to those outside the immediate Nashville area, as well as making it difficult for fans to snag tickets on the secondary market.
And the Blackhawks aren’t the first team that have experienced this when they visit Nashville. Originally it was the Red Wings.
“When the Predators first became a team in the late 1990s they dealt with this for the Red Wings. They had similar sort of ways to try and limit the Red Wings fans,” Daunic said. “It was the Red Wings that were in sort of a golden age that brought a lot of fans down and they had a lot of fans in our area that had grown up Red Wings fans who had moved to Nashville.”
Now with the movement of the Red Wings to the Eastern Conference and the rise of the Blackhawks, Daunic says that it’s the Blackhawks that most Predators fans dislike. “I think if you poll the Predator fans it has shifted over years from the Red Wings to the Blackhawks as who is the number one rival,” he said.
Apparently, if the Predators’ top rival is popular enough, that means it’s time to implement measures to prevent potential customers from buying tickets based on geography. Nashville still sells out 100.2 percent of its official capacity on average, so it’s not like this is necessarily costing them money. It’s just frustrating for a lot of Chicagoans who would love to travel to a beautiful city like Nashville and catch a Hawks game, even if their stance is understandable.
The Blackhawks pulled off an exciting 5-3 win over the Predators on Saturday night, but it wasn’t easy for Chicago fans to see it in person. That’s by design as the rivalry between the two teams has grown, and as long as the Blackhawks remain the class of the division, it’s hard to see that changing.