Eight Hundred and Nine Miles: For Love Of The Game
Eight hundred and nine miles – that is the driving distance from Berwick, Pa., to Nashville, Tenn. To establish your bearings, that distance is longer than the drive from Nashville to Orlando or Nashville to Dallas.
Berwick sits in the northeast corner of the Keystone State about 130 miles west of New York City. It is a small town of 11,000 people – 8,500 of which are between 18 and 65 years of age.
Berwick is also the town Sam Jordan calls home.
Sam fits the mold of most Berwickians: young, married with a baby on the way and works a normal kind of job. He’s a passenger services representative for U.S. Airways in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton – a modest 30-minute drive.
“I grew up in Loganton, Pennsylvania, and I moved here a couple of years ago,” Jordan said. “I got married back in 2011, and we moved to Berwick. It’s a quiet town. I’m just here working for the airline.”
The city is centrally located within the National Hockey League’s Metropolitan Division, which makes it a hockey hotbed for the fans who live there, as it is a reasonable drive to Buffalo, Newark, N.J., New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and even Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“I grew up playing hockey on frozen ponds back in Loganton, so hockey has always been a big part of my life,” Jordan said. “Hockey really stands out in this area. We have the American Hockey League affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins – the baby Pens as we call them – close by. I try to attend some of those games when my schedule allows.”
But unlike most hockey fans in Berwick, Sam doesn’t root for the Penguins or the Flyers – he is a Nashville Predators fan through-and-through.
Three years ago, Sam, a life-long hockey fan, attended his first Preds game at the arena on Broadway. He immediately fell in love with the atmosphere of Bridgestone Arena and the blue-collar playing style synonymous with Nashville’s professional hockey team.
“When I went to my first Preds game, I didn’t realize how great the atmosphere was there,” Jordan said. “I sat in the Cell Block and was hooked on Preds hockey from that moment on.”
After attending a few more Preds games here-and-there, Sam’s passion for the game and the “Predator way” led him to make one of the most important decisions of his adult life – he bought Preds season tickets.
That’s right, Sam Jordan, citizen of Berwick, Pa., is a full season ticket holder for the Nashville Predators.
“Some people may think I’m crazy, but if you’re going to be all-in to support a team, there is only one way to be all-in,” Jordan said. “For me, I never know what may or may not come up in my schedule, so the full-season package allows me to attend more games if possible. And the team provides some pretty great perks to their full season ticket holders. So I decided to go all-in to support the Preds, and I have not regretted the decision for one moment.”
And with that purchase, he was crowned the most long-distance member of the Preds Loyal Legion.
Sam dove right into his Preds fandom, adorning his man cave with Nashville Predators memorabilia; however, the room has recently been taken over with supplies for the baby. He also quickly removed any evidence of past NHL allegiances from his closet.
“I burned it,” Jordan said of his old Pittsburgh Penguins jersey. “I bought my first Preds jersey after the preseason, and when I got home, I got rid of all my Penguins stuff. The Preds have taken over.”
The 2013-14 campaign is Sam’s first season as a season ticketholder, and he has already made several home games this season, including the Dec. 14 game against San Jose as the Season Ticketholder of the Game.
But for the games he can’t attend, he does the most reasonable thing he can think of when it comes to disposing of his unused tickets.
“I try to attend as many games as my schedule allows, but if I can’t make it a game or my friends in the Nashville area can’t, I donate them to the Preds Foundation,” Jordan said. “I think it’s important to give those tickets to people who don’t always have the means to experience a game, and the Preds do a good job of offering those types of opportunities to less fortunate people. If I can help someone else enjoy a nice night out at a Preds game, then I always like to do that.”
But why the Preds? Why travel so far to watch a team that you didn’t grow up rooting for? Why waste the time and energy just to watch Preds hockey? Sam’s answer seems pretty simple once you hear it.
“I’ve always hated the cliché that you have to be fan of your hometown team,” Jordan said. “I would rather have a team that represents me as a person, rather than where I’m from. The thing that I find so unique about the Preds organization is that they build everything from the bottom up. They go after hard-working, character players that mesh well with the balance in the locker room. They don’t throw that chemistry balance off with flashy players – which is something I’m very used to living near the Penguins and the Flyers.
“Off the ice, it’s a family environment. You can talk to anyone in the fan base or in the front office and they’re all committed to the same goal. They’re committed to the community and they are always willing to invest in the fan base. They could use that money to get big time free agents, but they have made a commitment to the fan base and community.”
Sam has recognized the work ethic, obligation to the community and commitment to the Loyal Legion that the Preds have used to build one of the strongest fan bases in professional sports. And Sam, like many other Preds fans, use season tickets to return the support to the team they believe embodies a core set of values we should all strive to possess.
“If you want a team that will represent who you are as a person, both on and off the ice, the Nashville Predators are your team,” Jordan said. “They are a blue-collar team, they always do what’s right and they capture the spirit of the blue-collar working American.”