The message was posted on her Instagram account on Saturday afternoon. From the country singing star to her hockey playing husband.
From Carrie Underwood to Mike Fisher — the National Hockey League’s power couple.
“I love this man more than words can express,” Underwood, the seven-time Grammy Award winner wrote on her account. “I am beyond proud of him … he is an amazing man of God. He loves his family, his friends and his job.”
Fisher doesn’t consider himself a celebrity of any kind here in the Stanley Cup final, here in hockey-crazed Nashville, here as the first year captain of the Predators. As Game 4 of the final approaches, Fisher has attempted to stickhandle around any personal questions. His wife earns $20 million a year, according to Forbes Magazine. His career earnings are beyond $45 million after 18 NHL seasons. He is in a unique position in professional sports.
“I don’t really look at myself as a celebrity,” said Fisher, talking personally for a rare moment with a reporter he has known for most of his career. “I mean, I don’t know…As far as being a celebrity, my wife gets more attention than me, which I’m OK with. I just kind of hide and put her out there.”
But right now, for these days, until the Country Music Awards take over Nashville, there can be no hiding. It’s all about Stanley Cup here.
And with Fisher, the captain, possibly in his final NHL days. His contract expires at the end of the season. Most of the players from his draft year — such as previous Stanley Cup champions Vinny Lecavalier and Brad Richards — have already retired. He understands what it is to be here, back in the final for the second time in his career, the first time in a decade, how precious this is, how special the occasion, how remarkable this town has become, and yes, how unusual and blessed he is in his own life.
“This whole run for me and seeing this city come together and this group has been special,” said Fisher. “What it’s been able to do. It makes me proud to be able to do be a captain in this run.”
This is his first season as captain, replacing Shea Weber. At first, he needed time to grow into the role. He admits that now, especially after a tough start to the season with the Preds.
“I’ve been blessed to be able to play this game for so long and be in this situation I just consider myself fortunate,” he said.
The Predators have grown into this giant story — this national story, really — with how they’ve been able to combine hockey and honky tonk and the downtown environment of Broadway and one of the noisiest rinks in NHL history in a place where big name country music stars sing the national anthem and run the chants on an every-game basis. One minute, you’re looking at Hank Williams Jr. saying: “Are you ready for some Predators?” And the next minute, it’s Keith Urban singing the anthem with actress Nicole Kidman looking on. But ask the Predators about how the celebrity culture began around their team and you get a simple answer.
It started with Underwood. It seems the country music scene here is a rather tight. Everybody pretty much knows everybody else. And a lot of them celebrate in the success of each other. So, when Underwood began having a presence at Predators games, so did her friends, so did other singers and entertainers who otherwise may not have paid any attention to hockey.
In getting to this point, they have strongly protected their privacy and have done almost no interviews together on the subject of their lives or their relationship, in which they share deep religious beliefs.
They have spoken to Oprah Winfrey. Doesn’t everyone? They did a long interview with the American icon. They even named an oak tree on their property after Oprah. They talked a lot about their spiritual beliefs and how much religion plays a factor in their lives. They talked about how they would pray together on the phone when dating. They like to buy each other books that matter and then talk about them.
Soon they may be talking about a Stanley Cup parade. Underwood has no shortage of awards, from Grammys to Billboards to American Music to Country Music. For Fisher, 36, this is the big one. Maybe the only Stanley Cup he’ll ever get.
“I’m getting up there in age,” said the former Peterboro Bee. “And I’ve played on some great teams. I know how hard it is to get here. I realize that and I’m trying to enjoy it as best I can. I’m trying to lead the best I can and give everything I’ve got. I’ve really enjoyed this group, they’re fun to be around, work hard and are all heart.”
And if this is the end for Fisher, he may be leaving the Predators but he won’t be leaving the city.
“This is our home,” Fisher said. “It’s where we want to raise our family. It’s an amazing city and the people are unbelievable. We have so many great friends here, great church. Our families love visiting. It’s become a special place or us.”
It becomes that much more special if Nashville wins the Stanley Cup. It won’t make him a bigger celebrity than his wife. But it will make him a figure for the ages.
Roman Josi is picking the right time to emerge as a genuine NHL star.
Which isn’t an easy thing to do when you’re soft-spoken and anything but star-like in your off-ice approach to hockey.
Josi scored a goal, set up two others, in the Game 3 win by the Predators over the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night. He also led all shooters with six shots on goal, a huge total from a defenceman.
His coach, Peter Laviolette, referred to Josi as a “200-foot defenceman,” the kind of description normally used to describe forwards and earlier had called him the best player on the ice for either team.
“You’re talking about a guy who is goal line to goal line,” said Laviolette. “Maybe a lot of times that does refer to a forward. It’s not something you’d necessarily say but for a guy like him or a guy like Mattias Ekholm, who really likes to the take the puck and go 200 feet, you say it.
“His offensive skills, I think they stand out more sometimes because he’s gifted offensively. Offence always draws your attention. I guess what I’m saying is, his defence is equally as good for me.”
Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, who has played in previous Stanley Cup finals against great defencemen such as Nicklas Lidstrom, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, didn’t single out any Nashville defencemen individually but said as a group they were very difficult to play against.