Nashville

Here’s Why Nashville’s Hockey Fans Throw Catfish Onto the Ice

Frederick Breedon/Getty Images Sport
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images Sport
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images Sport

UPDATE 5/10: The Nashville Predators are real¬†contenders once again in 2018, entering the NHL playoffs as the top seed in the Western Conference. Tonight¬† they’ll take on the Winnipeg Jets in Game 7 of a series tied at 3-3. The forecast calls for more catfish.

The Nashville Predators’ runs to the Stanley Cup Finals¬†have afforded many opportunities for announcers and sportswriters to remind fans that the Music City is a “non-traditional” hockey town. And while, yes, there are fewer than a dozen rinks in the state, Middle Tennessee has taken to the local NHL team with a fervor normally reserved for SEC football. Celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon as well, with Carrie Underwood (the wife of team captain Mike Fisher), Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum, Kelly Clarkson, and local pro athletes all showing up to recent playoff contests.

It began with Detroit — and an octopus

Believe it or not, Nashville is now an honest-to-goodness hockey town, and more and more people are learning about the diehard fans’ bizarre game-time ritual: throwing catfish onto the ice. Many wonder, “Why in the good name of Lord Stanley do the Preds faithful do this?” Well, you can blame it on Detroit.
 
Back when the Predators launched in 1998, a large portion of the fanbase was made up of Red Wings-loving transplants who worked at the local auto plants. These carpetbaggers were an important part of the initial rooting section, bringing their passion for the game to the arena, as well as their own strange habit — The Legend of the Octopus. The practice dates back to 1952, when some Detroit rooters decided to throw an octopus onto the ice for good luck, reasoning that the eight arms of the cephalopod represented the eight wins necessary for the team to win a championship. The Red Wings took home the Cup and, with hockey fans generally being superstitious types, the octopi have been raining down from the stands ever since.

Frederick Breedon/Getty Images Sport
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images Sport
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images Sport

Perfecting the art of throwing catfish

Fast forward to 2002, when the Wings came to Nashville, and some inspired Preds lover decided that the team needed its own twist on the toss, this time using a staple of local cuisine. During the game, seemingly out of nowhere, a catfish flew over the glass onto center ice, the crowd went wild, Nashville won, and the tradition was born. (Not everyone was happy about it, though — one stadium worker tasked with cleaning them up said, “They are so gross. They’re huge, they’re heavy, they stink, and they leave this slimy trail on the ice. But, hey, if it’s good for the team, I guess we can deal with it.”)
 
And as one might reasonably expect, it’s not an easy stunt to pull off, given that it’s technically illegal to bring them into the stadium. Fans either purchase the fish at local seafood markets or catch their own whiskered whales from the Cumberland River, which runs a few blocks from Bridgestone. Then they smuggle the beasts inside, often using plastic wrap or tape to affix the contraband to the small of their backs, stomachs, or legs while the ushers and security guards (usually) turn a blind eye out of loyalty to the team. The throwing mostly happens before the end of the pre-game “Star-Spangled Banner,” as few people want to have a smelly, rotting animal stuck to them for any longer than necessary. Others, with less concern for the odors and slime, hold out until the Predators score or win.

Whatever you do, don’t get arrested

This year, there have already been a few notable tosses throughout the playoffs, both in Nashville and out. Tennessee Titans tackle Taylor Lewan brought catfish into two games so far, holding one over his head before chugging a beer while the arena went bonkers. In the first game of the Finals, one Preds fanatic decided to repeat the feat in Pittsburgh to rally a Predators’ comeback. That stunt not only earned him an immediate ejection from the Penguins arena, but also an arrest for disorderly conduct, possessing instruments of a crime, and “disrupting a meeting.” A local radio station promised to pay all of his fines, and he’s being hailed as a hero. All charges against the fan were later dropped.
 
It might all seem crazy, but that’s the “Smashville” way now. Now that the team is in the Stanley Cup Finals, the stakes are high and fans have taken the tradition to a whole new level. During game three, a total of five catfish hit the ice, causing a stoppage of play, and some necessary clean-up.Before game four, Predator’s Head Coach Peter Laviolette took to Twitter to ask fans not to throw things on the ice:

“Showing good sportsmanship is part of being good citizens of ‘Smashville’. That means not throwing anything on the ice, putting both our players, and the officials in danger. Help us secure our home-ice advantage and prevent us from being penalized for unnecessary reasons,” Laviolette said. “Please don’t throw anything on the ice and thank you for being the best fans in the National Hockey League.”

But come game six in Nashville, the fans screamed, local country stars sang, and the catfish continued to fly, even up until the point of defeat — after all, it’s tradition in a non-traditional hockey town.Sign up here for our daily Nashville email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun the Music City has to offer.

Chris Chamberlain is a food, drink, and travel writer as well as a Nashville Predators season ticket holder. He prefers his catfish fried and his penguins locked up in zoos. Follow his opinions about the offside rule on Twitter @CeeElCee.

Nashville

How to Get into Nashville’s Best Speakeasies and Secret Bars

Nashville's speakeasies have impeccable cocktails and even better vibes.

One More Cocktail Club
One More Cocktail Club
One More Cocktail Club

It’s not like it’s difficult to find a spot for a proper cocktail in Nashville, except when it’s intentionally hard. Some of Nashville’s finest bars are a little more hidden away, to create a sense of exclusivity and limit crowds so that talented bartenders can offer the sort of individualized attention that their inventive drinks deserve. Besides, it’s nice to have a conversation at a bar where you don’t have to yell to be heard. Here are some of our favourite places to chill.

The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club
The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club
The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club

The Fox Bar and Cocktail Club

South InglewoodThe talented mixologists at The Fox are a big part of the attraction, and some of their novel takes on classic cocktails have actually won national awards in recipe contests. But even if all you want is a proper gin and tonic, you’ll be delighted by the cozy library vibe of the East Nashville emporium. The bar staff insists on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, so the drink menu changes frequently. Don’t worry if your favourite rolls off, because there’s sure to be something new to delight you.

Danielle B. Atkins
Danielle B. Atkins
Danielle B. Atkins

Attaboy

East NashvilleAn outpost of the James Beard Award-nominated NYC cocktail bar, Nashville’s version of Attaboy is no slouch either. Well, the building is kindy slouchy, a cinderblock edifice hidden away in an alley where guests are invited to “knock gently” to gain entry. If the bar is full, you’ll have to wait outside, but once you gain entrance, the fun really begins. Bartenders interview patrons about their drink preferences and then compose cocktails on the fly to fulfil their wildest dreams. Sit at the bar or settle into a blue velvet booth to enjoy a completely crafty cocktail or two.

Hidden Bar
Hidden Bar
Hidden Bar

Hidden Bar

DowntownThis subterranean lair in the Noelle hotel downtown is intentionally difficult to find. The entrance is through a door you’d probably never pass through unless you work for the hotel cleaning staff, but it’s a passage to something wonderful. Hidden Bar often stages thematic pop-ups that extend to both the riotous decor and the drink list, and large-format drinks are designed for sharing, so bring a few friends.

Skull's Rainbow Room
Skull’s Rainbow Room
Skull’s Rainbow Room

Skull’s Rainbow Room

Printer’s AlleySkull’s has been a Printers Alley institution since the middle of the last century, except for the few years it was closed when notorious club owner David “Skull” Schulman was murdered, reportedly by someone that knew he always kept the evening’s cash receipts in the top pocket of his trademark overalls. Since reopening, the showroom has revived the old-school vibe with nightly jazz and burlesque shows, classic cocktails served from an elaborate wooden bar and a restaurant that features an excellent chophouse menu. It’s easy to forget the time during an evening at Skulls. Heck, it’s easy to forget what decade it is.

Bar Sovereign
Bar Sovereign
Bar Sovereign

Bar Sovereign

SoBroTucked away in a nondescript strip mall among the towering hotel buildings of SoBro, Bar Sovereign’s entrance is marked only by a small golden plaque that is fortunately close to eye level. Inside is a wonderland of bold artwork covering the walls, a sculpture created from a disassembled piano behind the bar and a menu of interesting and affordable cocktails that is rare to find amongst the nearby tourist destinations. The atmosphere gets a little wilder late at night when DJs spin tunes for the party people and industry folks looking to blow off a little steam at the end of a shift.

Bay 6
Bay 6
Bay 6

Bay 6

East NashvilleThis microbar has a double punny name. First of all, it is, indeed, crammed into the sixth bay of what used to be a self-service car wash before the building was converted into an elevated food and drink court with international carryout restaurants occupying the other quintet of stalls. Secondly, the menu is intentionally basic, with simple, well-made cocktails designed to be served quickly so that guests can enjoy them in one of the very few seats in Bay 6 or carry them out to the lively outdoor patio where patrons enjoy their food from one of the options at The Wash.

Green Hour
Green Hour
Green Hour

Green Hour

GermantownBy day, Tempered Fine Chocolates occupies this space, but on Thursday through Saturday evenings, they unpack the bottles, build a bar and flick on the green light that lets tipplers know that Green Hour is now in session. Dedicated to the exotic “Green Fairy,” absinthe, the bar offers pours of more than a dozen versions of the anise-flavoured spirit. Enjoy a classic absinthe service with drops of water to open up the aromas and flavours or order a flight of three for comparison. The bartenders also employ absinthe in an array of exotic cocktails, but if you don’t like licorice, you might want to pass.

Never Never
Never Never
Never Never

Never Never

Wedgewood-HoustonIt’s not like they’re trying to hide Never Never. It’s just that the former welding shop is so non-descript and hidden away next to the railroad tracks, you might need someone to show you the way to the front door. It’s worth the hunt, though, because the cocktails are both clever and cheap. Enjoy small bites, beer, wine and cocktails at the amiable dimly-lit bar or discover the patio oasis out back that feels like being a guest at a friend’s house party.

Minerva Avenue
Minerva Avenue
Minerva Avenue

Minerva Ave

North NashvilleDress to impress at this Tennessee State University neighbourhood cocktail lounge. A tall fence surrounds the compound to provide privacy, but once you knock for admission, you’ll encounter an expansive outdoor deck with cabanas, fire pits and an outdoor bar. Inside, it’s a little more vibey with plush booths, dramatic lighting accents as well as nostalgic music and artwork. Smokers can enjoy hookah service and cigars, and bottle service is available for high rollers.

One More Cocktail Club
One More Cocktail Club
One More Cocktail Club

One More Cocktail Club

DowntownTucked away in the hallway outside of Level 3 South at the Assembly Food Hall, One More Cocktail Club feels like worlds away from the tourist throngs below. There’s only room for a couple of dozen guests in the chic lounge, so everyone is treated like a VIP. The menu is a mix of new craft cocktails and classics, with special attention paid to creating beautiful works of art including appropriate garnishes. A tight menu of red, white and bubbly wines is also available for those in the know.

Pushing Daisies Underground Margaritas
Pushing Daisies Underground Margaritas
Pushing Daisies Underground Margaritas

Pushing Daisies

DowntownIf you park on the top deck of the garage below the Fifth + Broad retail/dining/entertainment complex across from the Bridgestone Arena, you’ll actually have to walk down to get to Pushing Daisies, home of “underground margaritas.” Named after the class of cocktails that feature citrus, sweet and sour, this hot new lounge concentrates on the tequila version of the whiskey sour or daiquiri. Margaritas are crafted using luxury ingredients and quaffed by a hip crowd of guests enjoying pumping music and dramatic lighting. It’s definitely a scene to be seen.

The Late Great
The Late Great
The Late Great

The Late Great

Demonbreun/Music RowFor the first year this cocktail lounge at the Virgin Nashville was open, it wasn’t really open. Instead, it was a private membership club with an entrance hidden away even from hotel guests. Now, we civilians can make reservations for a three-cocktail “experience” in this shrine to music and creativity, decorated like the writers’ lounge outside the legendary recording studios on nearby Music Row. Private memberships are still available if you’re so inclined and still flush with those songwriter royalty checks.

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Sarah Carter is a writer and country music lover living in Lebanon, Tennessee. Follow her (mostly southern) regional exploits and stories on Instagram.

Chris Chamberlain is a food, drink, and travel writer based out of his hometown of Nashville. Find him on Twitter @CeeElCee.

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