(Editor’s note: This is the seventh installment of this series, where we reach out to other writers from around the SB Nation family to learn more about their history with the sport, how the Blackhawks line up with other teams, and some general hockey talk.)
Let’s start with a shout out to Nick Morgan’s mom for instilling his passion for hockey at a young age — even if it was for the Red Wings.
“I grew up outside of Detroit, and she would tell me stories about the old Olympia Stadium and watching Gordie Howe play,” Morgan said. “But we moved to Nashville right around the time I started understanding sports, and getting into players and their stats. That’s when the Red Wings dynasty started to happen in those 1997-98 Cup runs.”
Because he was in Nashville, though, Morgan said he was stuck watching hockey on TV.
“Then, when I was in fourth grade, after the Red Wings second Cup win, that’s when the Predators started as a team,” he recalled. “And I thought about how cool would it be if I could watch hockey LIVE? Hometown pride kicked in. I immediately knew all the stats, the players ... I dove right in and went all in for the Preds.”
I bet you’re all thinking: “There must be a great first game story in here, right?”
Yes, there is.
And the way Morgan described it made me feel like I was right there watching the game with him.
“December 23, 1998,” he said. “It was known in Nashville as the ‘ice storm game.’ That day, there was one of the worst storms Nashville had seen in years, and that night was the Red Wings first-ever visit to Nashville. My mom took me (of course), and it was an early Christmas present. She surprised me with a Preds jersey and two tickets. We drove down to the stadium, we braved that ice storm. I remember that we had seats right behind the Preds penalty box. I could see the gradient on their jersey, and their hair poking out of their helmet. Tomas Vokoun made 50 saves, which was the record for most saves in a win in Predators history.”
Morgan really gets to the heart of watching hockey as a kid when he explained: “I remember the atmosphere in the game. There were all these star players from Detroit and here they were skating in front of me! Imagine seeing your heroes for the first time. And then these Nashville guys I came to know everything about, they were more like action heroes to me, and they won that game! Everything about that entire experience completely hooked me!” (Anyone else have tears in their eyes at this point?)
Nashville’s fan base seems to be growing steadily, according to Morgan.
“Early on, the fan base was mainly moms and dads whose kids were into hockey so they brought them to the games as a fun thing to do,” Morgan said. “Since then, those kids have grown up, they became invested in the team and now they’re starting to bring their kids to the games. Nashville is a fun stadium to go to, even if you’re not super into hockey.”
He laughed as he recalled what’s known as “Cellblock 303.”
“You must have heard during games those chants like ‘You suck!’ after a goal,” he said. “That section of loud fans used to lead the entire stadium in chants!”
Although Morgan started writing for On the Forecheck just two years ago when a friend recommended he apply and got the job, he’s been involved with journalism for most of his professional life.
“I was in the news journalism field, before I started writing (with my current team), including a stint covering sports in Atlanta,” he said. “But since the Thrashers weren’t there any more, there was no hockey.”
Unfortunately, Morgan does not recall his former journalism career fondly. “In the TV business, there’s so much egotism, lots of toxicity and lots of competition for jobs. But writing for On the Forecheck was like therapy for me since I had lost my love for writing about sports. Really, when I started interacting with my colleagues and I saw their passion for the work they do it reinvigorated my love for creativity.
He (very correctly) added, “I’m sure it’s like this at Second City Hockey, a bunch of people that do this for the love of the sport. No other motive behind it other than that they want to make their voices heard about what they’re passionate about.
It was inspiring to listen to Morgan talk about his team at On the Forecheck. “We have such a good team, and a great mix of talented people: some advanced stats geniuses, a guy that scouts as well as any professional, people that can take an idea out of thin air and turn it into a beautiful piece in an hour. If you’re in a supportive environment, you can do anything. Being around these people is a good reminder of who I want to be around, not just professionally, but personally.”
What’s his favorite thing to write about?
“Anything fun! I’m a very sarcastic person, and I inject a lot of humor into what I do. I like doing stuff that I think fans will enjoy or get a kick out of.”
For example, he wrote an article about a cover band that former player and current Predators’ development coach Sebastien Bordeleau started (for real), a piece explaining how the Peddle Tavern was the reason behind a massive winning streak, and a very important article describing what food each team member would be at thanksgiving dinner.
In regards to the status of the Predators now, Morgan said that, “this can potentially be the biggest transitional period in the Preds’ history. It seems that they need to tear the foundation out and put it back together. For whatever reason, they’ve hit a wall as far as their chemistry. Guys like Yakov Trenin, Alexandre Carrier, and Eeli Tolvanen will be key pieces down the road. Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis always have a chance to put on good performance, but we need to re-evaluate what players they are putting around them.”
So how are the Predators going to fare against the Blackhawks during this weekends pair of games?
“I think the Preds have been playing pretty well recently,” Morgan said. “I’m not going to predict a score cause this has been the craziest season known to the team so far, but I do know you’re still going to see that Chicago vs Nashville passion. All the lines are going to play with intensity and bring their ‘A’ game.”
Ironically though, Morgan shared that, “I think the fans are going to be mad if we win against Chicago. Last Sunday, Nashville came from behind to win against Dallas. You’d think this would have been a reason to celebrate, but the fans blew up on Twitter, complaining about the win, saying: ‘This could cost us draft position.’ And I’m thinking: just cheer for your team! Don’t try to put yourself into the GM’s shoes, just enjoy the team on the ice.”
Thanks Nick! Now, let’s go Hawks!