Every major sports city needs a power celeb-athlete couple. San Antonio had the (ill-fated) union of Eva Longoria and the Spurs' Tony Parker. Back in the day, there was the (ill-fated) Marilyn Monroe-Joe DiMaggio match. We all got to see Cameron Diaz force-feed popcorn to Alex Rodriguez during the Super Bowl. That was unfortunate. And Albertans still blame Wayne Gretzky's 1988 trade from the exciting nightlife of Edmonton to the ho-hum grind of Los Angeles on his marriage to Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach star Janet Jones.
To be a top-flight, major league city, you've got to make the pages of People. Well, roll out the bunting, Nashville. We've done it.
With the trade deadline approaching, the Predators moved some draft picks north of the border in exchange for Mike Fisher, the best hockey player in the world married to an American Idol winner. Ever since Fisher and Carrie Underwood tied the knot, it's been rumored we might one day see him in a Predators sweater, and — Jesus, take the wheel! — we finally got it with his Feb. 12 debut against the Avalanche.
It was the team's 11th sellout of the season — no doubt the benefit of a nice bump from the acquisition of the dreamy Fisher and the sweet $12 ticket deal the franchise used to celebrate his arrival.
Of course, around the league — and especially in Ontario, a province that isn't thrilled with the prospect of Southern hockey in the first place — there are cynical folks casting Carrie as Yoko Ono. As if Predators' GM David Poile exploits country music connections to make deals. As we all know, elfin Belarusian winger Sergei Kostitsyn plays for the Predators because of his lifelong love of Loretta Lynn, and the pugilistic Shane O'Brien is a sucker for "Harper Valley PTA."
There does appear to be a smidgen of a chance that Underwood was the inspiration for the trade — or at least the destination. The Senators are in full-on rebuilding mode and put out feelers for a deal for Fisher. Rumors have it that Carolina actually offered more than Nashville did for the centerman, but out of respect Ottawa took the Predators' deal instead.
The fact is — his very famous spouse aside — Fisher is a good fit for the Preds. He's a tough, do-anything forward who had Coach Barry Trotz practically drooling after the trade became official. Fisher doesn't score an unworldly number of goals (not that any Predators do), so this isn't exactly The-Great-One-to-the-Kings. But he was well-liked up in Ottawa, and he acquitted himself well against Colorado — working hard, screening the goalie on Shea Weber's goal and notching an assist on David Legwand's end-of-game empty-netter. Fisher instantly became Nashville's all-time leader in playoff games with 75, an asset that can't hurt as the Predators try, once again, to make it past the first round.
It can't hurt the marketing side of things either: the ruggedly handsome Fisher on the ice, the blond songbird Underwood in a suite or on the front row cheering her man. More than a few folks came to the Colorado game to catch a glimpse of Underwood. The trade earned mention on a few gossip sites (Next up on TMZ: "Barry Trotz and his neck — still not together!"), and the deal knocked Mike Munchak's Sisyphean efforts at building a coaching staff to lower-rung fodder for at least a day.
If it all works out, maybe Poile will try his hand at matchmaking country ingénues and pretty-boy pucksters. The Predators already have a little history at sparking seemingly bizarre pairings — this is the team, after all, that got Vince Gill to play lead guitar for Alice Cooper during intermission a couple weeks ago.
So, Taylor, have you met the handsome Steven Stamkos? He's got 40 goals this year. Oh, and Sara Evans? I know that divorce has been nasty, but there's a fellow up in Calgary named Jarome Iginla who has a bad habit of scoring on the Predators. Maybe you can convince him to score for us. And we all know how you like to party, Mindy. So does the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin. Those 50-goal seasons couldn't hurt, either.
In the meantime, Preds fans can enjoy the star power and the probably-already-here paparazzi. Oh, and hopefully a little extra punch on the ice.