There were free catfish for throwing.

In taking it all in, it’s no wonder the Predators are 8-1 at home these playoffs, a key component to their Western Conference championship. That lone loss came in overtime against the Ducks. They’re outscoring opponents on a 3.33-1.56 average with the backing of the gold-clad, cowboy hat-wearing hockey crazies.

NBC announced a 16.6 local rating for Saturday’s Game 3, an all-time record for the Nashville market.

That figure doesn’t account for the football stadium-sized crowd police said were watching on the jumbo-sized screens outside the arena and the rest of the immediate area. No longer a novelty act, this is the norm in Nashville nowadays.

Since the expansion in 1998, traditions took hold, tailored to the unique country culture befitting a franchise born at the foot of a honky tonk strip. And when it came time to show the rest of the world Saturday, a city long marginalized by hockey purists unabashedly put it on full display to will the Predators back into a Stanley Cup Final that had begun to slip away.

There were free catfish for throwing. Rex and Rob Ryan were among hundreds to take sledgehammer swings at the car parked in front of Bridgestone Arena with a Penguins paint scheme. Alan Jackson, the Country Music Hall of Fame artist whose free pregame concert clogged Broadway, sports the Predators’ Stand With Us mantra as his Twitter avatar.

Before puck drop, Predators players took notice. NHL Network was on in the locker room and some, including PA Parenteau and P.K. Subban, marveled at this never-before-seen energy.

It’s the best atmosphere I’ve ever played in, said Subban, who along with Parenteau once called Montreal’s Bell Centre home ice.

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