PITTSBURGH – The thumping beat of “Ghetto Superstar” echoed in the hallway outside the Nashville Predators locker room in Pittsburgh. It was loud. The kind of loud that makes a veteran player wince and cast a ‘get off my lawn’ stare at the young’ins.
“I remember the days when the old guys were complaining that [our music] was too loud,” said Mike Fisher, who turns 37 in June 5 and is the second oldest member of the team. “Music’s definitely changed. You don’t have to pull out that big CD deal anymore [to play it].”
Fisher’s happy to let the kids have their tunes in the Predators locker room, because this mix of a handful of veteran players and a slew of young talents is what’s helped make Nashville a Stanley Cup finalist.
“We’ve got such a good group of different mixes of guys, at different stages of their careers,” he said. “We have guys with hardly any experience that have come in and done an unbelievable job. That’s a big part of our success.
“I hope I relate to them OK.”
In some ways, it’s easy to relate to Mike Fisher: Veteran player, glue guy, good for 20 goals, does the little things that help you win. And in other ways, Mike Fisher is living a very different kind of life from his teammates, because we highly doubt their playoff success has earned headlines like this:
There are different kinds of fame in professional sports. P.K. Subban is hockey famous. Mike Fisher, thanks to his marriage to music star Carrie Underwood, is tabloid famous – despite the fact that Subban has a personality the size of Tennessee, and the other guy is Mike Fisher.
This was never more evident than at media day during the Stanley Cup Final, when Subban tweaked Fisher while goofing around and pretending to be a reporter.
— NHL (@NHL) May 28, 2017
SUBBAN: “How does it feel to be the best looking player on the Nashville Predators, and probably in the league?”
FISHER: “Says who? Says you? Or says my wife?”
SUBBAN: “But how does it feel to be the best-looking guy in the league?”
FISHER: “It’s the best feeling in the world. Better than raising a Stanley Cup, no question.”
Said his wife:
Says who? Uh…your wife, for one! ???????????????? https://t.co/tXBYEK5zZW
— Carrie Underwood (@carrieunderwood) May 28, 2017
(Of course, it should be said that Fisher’s acting the role of reporter too.)
Underwood has been a fixture at Predators games, singing the anthem during the playoffs and having her reactions replayed during coverage, like a Greek chorus of emojis.
DONT HURT EM, CARRIE pic.twitter.com/3M0Ffkf18s
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 30, 2017
And when she’s not there, she’s supporting him from afar:
— Carrie Underwood (@carrieunderwood) May 12, 2017
I asked Fisher about this phenomenon. “Just hockey questions today,” he said, understandably changing the subject on the day of Game 2.
This was Fisher’s seventh season with the Predators after 11 with the Ottawa Senators. GM Bryan Murray traded him to Nashville in Feb. 2011 for a first-rounder and a conditional pick. Fisher has said that Murray had several options for a trade, but chose the Nashville offer so Fisher could be closer to Underwood.
This is his first season as team captain, following the trade of Shea Weber.
“Name a characteristic that you’re looking for in a captain, and Mike is that. He’s a character person, with life’s priorities in order. He’s got a wonderful family, and a commitment to his faith,” said GM David Poile at the time.
Fisher found himself as one of the few veteran voices left in a room without much playoff experience, and one of the only voices that’s played for a Stanley Cup, as he did with the Senators in 2007.
“It’s the best trophy in sports, to me,” said Fisher. “The playoffs are so long. It’s a grind. Your body takes such a toll. It’s like going to war, really, a battle for two months and coming together as a group of guys.”
Sacrificing his body for the betterment of the team is, perhaps, his greatest leadership attribute according to his teammates.
“He’s a guy that does everything right on and off the ice,” fellow veteran forward Vernon Fiddler said earlier in the playoffs, via NHL.com. “He’s just a fearless leader that does everything possible. He blocks shots, he’ll fight, he scores, he hits. He’s a guy that plays at the end of games. He is not the most vocal guy but he just leads by his actions.”
Coach Peter Laviolette has praised his character, calling him “the type of guy you would want your kids growing up and following and watching what he says and what he does and how he deals with people in life, his work ethic, his habits, his practice habit.”
He’s led by example, and the Predators have responded to that example. “He’s our engine, he’s the guy that drives us and puts us in the right direction,” said defenseman Mattias Ekholm. “He’s a veteran guy.”
That he is. Injured teammate Kevin Fiala was one year old when Fisher was starting his junior hockey career, for example.
“It’s hard to believe I am that old,” said Fisher on Wednesday. “I feel like I’m 19 at heart some days.”
As long as he keeps playing like he is, the Predators will follow.
“I know what we have in this room. I know what we’re going to bring, what we’re going to see. The belief we have in here,” he said. “I think we’re ready for the challenge.”
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