Corey Hirsch column: My Conn Smythe vote goes to the city of Nashville

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Corey Hirsch is a former NHL goaltender who spent parts of seven seasons with the New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, and Dallas Stars.

I think we can all agree on one thing: the city of Nashville has raised the bar in terms of entertainment during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

I can’t be the only one who is a bit bummed to see the final headed back to Pittsburgh for Game 5 (and possibly Game 7). Sorry, Pittsburgh, you’re a great city, but not even Mario singing the national anthem can save you.

When it comes to setting the standard for entertainment at a championship game, the Super Bowl has long been considered the pinnacle. But beware, NFL - the NHL is coming for you.

Um ... did the needle on the record player just break and the music stop?

With the atmosphere the city of Nashville and its country music stars have created, each playoff game has been like a Super Bowl. The only thing missing is the late and legendary Prince playing his electric guitar in the rain.

The NHL PR machine caught a huge wave on this one, the perfect storm happening right in front of our very eyes. The process has been long, but it’s all coming together in what has been one of the most memorable finals in the history of the NHL - and maybe in all of sport, for that matter.

Three moments in Predators history brought us to this point.

Seven years ago, Mike Fisher married Carrie Underwood, a budding country music star out of "American Idol." In 2011, he's traded from Ottawa to Nashville so he can be closer to his wife. The bigger star Underwood became, the more hockey's popularity surged in Nashville.

Last summer, David Poile makes one of the boldest moves in NHL history when he trades arguably his best player, Shea Weber, for the most flamboyant, outgoing player in the NHL in P.K. Subban.

Subban's exciting playing style and interview candor immediately brought more attention to the Predators, who are no longer the NHL’s small-market runt. Like him or not, Subban is a media darling - and that sells the game.

Cue Charles Barkley, one of the biggest sports celebrities in the world. He states - in front of millions on live TV - that the 2017 NBA playoffs have been a disaster, and that the NHL playoffs have been way more exciting. It’s an enormous free plug for the NHL, exposing it to a huge new audience of viewers.

Barkley then gets a personal invite from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to join the party, flying to Nashville on an off day and going on NBC to help promote the game.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Truth be told, I was planning to use this article to make my picks for the Conn Smythe Trophy , given annually to the best player in the playoffs. And here they are:

Nashville - Pekka Rinne
Pittsburgh - Sidney Crosby

However, the best player in this year's playoffs hasn’t been an actual player. So, I’m giving my Conn Smythe vote to the city of Nashville.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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Corey Hirsch column: My Conn Smythe vote goes to the city of Nashville
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