Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, March 29, 2024

The art of getting a pre-game puck from Preds

Shelby Grisham, left, and Elizabeth Massey have broken the code on getting pucks from players. - Photo by Jim Diamond | The Ledger

It’s a game of skill, positioning, cunning, intelligence and, yes, even a little luck.

Hockey? Well, yes, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about the pregame routine hockey fans go through during the warmup skate in an effort to get players’ attention in search of a puck, a selfie or maybe even a stick.

As soon as the Bridgestone Arena gates open, fans flock into the lower bowl, regardless of where their actual seats for the game are, to battle for positioning on the glass before the clock hits the 16-minute mark and the players take to the ice for the warmup.

While the players go through their team and individual routines, the fans crowding the glass hold up their signs hoping to catch the eye of their targeted player. Some signs offer up friendship bracelets or candy in trade, and others throw out a rock, paper, scissors challenge. During the Predators’ March 19 home game against the San Jose Sharks, two such fans were Shelby Grisham and Elizabeth Massey.

Due to the SEC basketball tournament, the Predators had not played at home in nearly two weeks. The NHL’s trade deadline happened in that time, so the Tuesday night game was the first time newly acquired left winger Jason Zucker and forward Anthony Beauvillier were on home ice as Predators.

Some fans don’t even need signs. Earlier this season, Predators forward Filip Forsberg pulled a veteran move when he saw a young child standing by the glass. Instead of tossing the puck over the glass and hoping someone caught it and gave it to her, Forsberg tapped on the glass for someone to open the photographer’s hole that’s cut into the glass so that he could hand the puck to the child directly.

Before the recent game against the Sharks, Grisham held up this sign: “Zuck, I’ll test my luck for a puck.” Massey’s sign: “Hey Beau, Welcome to Nash, could I get a puck please?” Both signs bore the numbers of the new Predators.

Grisham’s sign even had a couple of four-leaf clovers drawn on it as well for a little post St. Patrick’s Day cache.

 Succinct, polite, artistic and poetic. The signs weren’t too wordy, as players don’t have time to read some of the novel-length signs some fans have. These ladies are no amateurs with their go-to location marked out each game. And they were playing metaphorical chess while most others were playing checkers. The odds were on their side, and they just needed to be seen.

While there were dozens of signs for the likes of Roman Josi, Juuse Saros and Luke Evangelista, Grisham and Massey went for the new guys, and they appeared to be the only ones pointed at Zucker and Beauvillier.

The starting goalie has a lot going on, so that’s a low-percentage play. The captain and the Evangelista, both with matinee-idol good looks, had many signs made for them, so again, percentages weren’t in the favor of those sign holders either.

 This wasn’t Grisham and Massey’s first rodeo and, in this case, their experience mattered and paid off. Both were tossed pucks by the players. Their admitted strategy worked and snapped a recent puck cold spell after some early-season success.

 “He needs love because he’s new,” Grisham cheekily added about Zucker.

 This was the perfect combination of southern hospitality and game recognizing game.

Zucker felt that love, as he scored the game-tying goal midway through the second period and he got to hear the Predators goal song, which he admitted to hating hearing as a longtime member of the Minnesota Wild.

“A fan base like this is phenomenal,” Zucker said after the game. “It’s one of the best in the league for a reason. For me, it’s a lot of fun to be a part of right now.”

With that kind of performance and recognition of the fans, there may be some more Zucker signs ringing the glass in upcoming home games.