Winnipeg vs. Nashville: How similar histories are creating a storied rivalry

Winnipeg Jets fans and Nashville Predator fans have a fun rivalry. .
Winnipeg Jets fans and Nashville Predator fans have a fun rivalry. . Brittany Greenslade/Global News

Hockey is in Canadians’ blood but it’s a sport Nashvillians also take very seriously.

While Nashville knows music, they also know hockey.

READ MORE: Connor Hellebuyck makes 47 saves as Jets top Predators in Game 1 of 2nd-round series

Nashville and Winnipeg came close to sharing more than just the second round in the 2018 Stanley Cup playoff run.

Nashville almost… almost… lost its team 11 years ago.

“We are very similar to Winnipeg,” Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told Global News. “Winnipeg lost their team 20 years ago. We almost lost our team… because of that our fan base has really owned the team.”

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Predators President and CEO Sean Henry.
Predators President and CEO Sean Henry. Brittany Greenslade/Global News

In May 2007, the Predators then owner announced he had a letter of intent to sell the team to a Canadian owner.

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After months of a “Save our Preds” campaign, the deal fell through and Nashville got to keep their team.

“Long past are the days of ‘do people know hockey in Nashville?’ It’s a great hockey city,” Henry said. “We are Smashville. It’s a hockey city. We are the best in our league like Winnipeg is.”

Winnipeg wasn’t as lucky.

READ MORE: Winnipeggers to run Nashville marathon in Jets jerseys Sunday

In 1996 the franchise moved to Phoenix, Arizona and became the Phoenix Coyotes (now the Arizona Coyotes).

In 2011 the Atlanta Thrashers franchise relocated to Winnipeg and restored the Jets name.

Henry said it’s partially because of the two city’s similar histories that this series is sure to create a rivalry unlike one we have seen in the past.

“It’s the two best teams in hockey playing. What I love about the way the playoffs roll out [is] this is going to build a rivalry that we haven’t seen yet between two franchises for years to come,” Henry said. “This will be the best series in our playoffs, or has an opportunity to be, so it’s going to be fun.”