The Pittsburgh Penguins hoisted the Stanley Cup in Nashville Sunday night, notching back-to-back NHL championships and ending a historic run for the Predators.
The tens of thousands of fans who packed the streets of Lower Broadway — some driving from Kentucky and Alabama — were relatively upbeat because they say the city and its hockey team are forever changed.
Steve Fleming, who directs a nonprofit in Nashville, has been rooting for the Preds since the team's beginning in 1998. So he felt an obligation to show up in person outside Bridgestone Arena to watch the game on giant screens.
"They've had a remarkable year," he said as the game concluded. "I just wanted to be supportive of them, show my Nashville spirit for them."
But many of those who joined Fleming downtown are newcomers.
"I'm kind of one of the newer bandwagon fans, so to speak," said Chad Tucker of Shelbyville, who added that it's hard to be disappointed. "We got further than we ever thought we would."
Haley Poston of Franklin had been to a few games before this year but owned no Predators attire to speak of.
"We were the only ones walking downtown the other day without some shirts on, so we had to run in and get some gear," she said. "We ended up getting the wrong sizes and everything because we were just in a hurry."
For some, this season was like a hockey awakening.
Chris Blackman of Hendersonville, who manages a hedge fund, is a big football fan who now finds himself caught up in a sport he knew little about. He'd never been to a game until this year, when he shelled out thousands of dollars to take his family to the playoffs.
"I've lived here my whole life, but never been a Predators fan until this season," he says. "I mean, my wife is into it. She's not even into sports, and she's sitting there texting from home, all excited about the game."
The ending was not what Blackman had hoped for, but he says there's no doubt he, like other new fans, will be back next season. He said it just took a potential championship run to open some people's eyes.