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Newz Forum: HOCKEY: Admirals give Predators fans some hockey to cheer about

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posted on Oct, 17 2004 @ 07:57 PM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Predators fans say they're bored, stuck watching replays of last year's games.

While the NHL continues to lock out the players in a labor dispute, Predators fans at least got to see somebody play hockey Saturday.

Timofei Shishkanov scored through the legs of Ryan Miller with 2:39 left in overtime as the American Hockey League's Milwaukee Admirals, an affiliate of the Predators, defeated the Rochester Americans 5-4.

Wyatt Smith also scored twice and had two assists for the Admirals, while Jason Botterill had two goals, including one with 18 seconds left to tie the game, and an assist for the Americans.

Nashville's opening night was supposed to be Thursday, and the minor league game featuring the defending AHL champion Admirals was scheduled as a doubleheader along with the Predators and the St. Louis Blues.

Even without the NHL game, the announced attendance was 10,642, more than 14 Predators games last season and twice the crowd that normally watches the Admirals in Milwaukee.

"I'm sure people are annoyed with the work stoppage, but I thought (the fans) were very passionate, very supportive and they were into the game," Milwaukee coach Claude Noel said.

Top ticket price was $10 for seats that normally cost $65, and the Predators treated fans to a live band before the game and let them skate with some of the players after it.

"We've been twiddling our thumbs," fan Dave Hubbard said while waiting for the arena to open. "It's been terrible."

Hubbard, a second-year season ticket holder wearing right wing Jordin Tootoo's jersey, said he began following the sport once Nashville got a franchise. His wife Jennie said she's happy to be back for at least one night and hopes the Admirals will play more games in Nashville if the lockout continues.

"It's always great to go and smell the ice," she said.

Admirals fan Marshall Ross said he's been a longtime follower of the AHL, but wants to see more of the sport on any level.

"We're all going through withdrawal," Ross said. "I just want to see a hockey game, so it's a real treat to have the AHL here."

Nashville fans have some opportunities to see their team play, even though seven current Predators are playing in Europe.

That's because the Predators' television affiliate, Fox Sports South, is showing 10 classic games, including five games from last season when the team reached the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

Sandy Sumey, wearing a jersey signed by Martin Erat, said the replays will have to suffice while the lockout continues. The lockout began Sept. 15 and there have been no negotiations since then.

"We're hoping they can work it out," she said. "It's a shame it's about money because there are so many good fans."

While the Predators' top players aren't eligible for the AHL, some of the younger members can still play in Milwaukee -- like Tootoo and left wing Scottie Upshall.

"It's frustrating," Upshall said. "It's obviously not a great time for anyone -- fans or players or management, but we've got to deal with it."

Other players know it's the best hockey league they can play in right now.

"While we want to play in the NHL, it's a good level here," Admirals center Simon Gamache said. "It's the best level you can play at right now. So short-term it's good, but long-term the dream is the NHL."

Eleven of the 25 skaters on Milwaukee's roster have played in the NHL, including Gamache, who appeared in seven games for the Predators after being traded from Atlanta last season.

Meanwhile, fans like Ross don't think people will stay away like they did from baseball when the World Series was canceled in 1994 because of a labor dispute.

"Hockey is a business," he said. "But hockey fans are hockey fans, and they'll be back."

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