It happened over and over again last summer.
Another day out and about in the metro Nashville area, another fan approaching Mike Fisher to speak with him, to thank him and his hockey team for what they brought to the community.
A sense of pride, a feeling of togetherness, never wanting the journey to end.
But eventually, the ice was melted, the summer trudged on and a decision loomed. Did Fisher, a 17-year NHL veteran and the captain of the Nashville Predators, coming off the high of his second run to the Stanley Cup Final, have another season in him?
“In my head, I knew there was probably a pretty good chance that [2016-17] was my last year… but I needed time,” Fisher said. “I wanted to step away because of the emotion of the playoffs and the excitement. It’s the time of your life, but I needed to separate myself from that for a little bit and just take some time to think about it and pray about it.”
His uncertainty turned to confirmation in the month of July, and in early August, Fisher made the decision to hang up his skates, to step away from the only profession he’s ever known for more than 30 years.
The Canadian turned Nashvillian made a surprise appearance on the ice prior to Tuesday’s home opener as the Preds unveiled and raised their Western Conference Championship banner to the rafters of Bridgestone Arena, a franchise first.
Emotions ran rampant for Fisher – the memories that rushed back from those two months last spring, coupled with the desire to rush back to the locker room, pull on a jersey and do it all over again.
But his cobalt blue suit won out as he watched a Predators game for the first time as a fan, wife Carrie and son Isaiah alongside.
Fisher admitted he’s gotten the itch to play a time or two, but as soon as he does, there’s always something there to remind him why he made his decision.
“Sometimes I think about missing the game, and then I look at [Isaiah],” Fisher said. “That’s really a big part of the reason, for sure, is being around and being in his life constantly.”
Fisher listed taking his “little man” to and from school as one of his favorite activities post-hockey, as well as meeting with a men’s group, attending church with more regularity and spending time with friends and family. A trip back home to Peterborough, Ontario, this past weekend for Canadian Thanksgiving was something Fisher estimated he hadn’t done in almost 20 years.
He made it back to Nashville in time for Tuesday’s ceremonies, to join his former teammates on the ice and watch the banner rise, a symbol of what this team, and people like Fisher, mean to this community.
“I’ll never forget that,” Fisher said of the postseason run. “It was the best year I’ve ever had. I’ve been fortunate to be in the Final once [in 2007 with Ottawa], but last year was, to me, it was so much more fun because of the way the city came together.
“I grew up around the sport, but everyone down here, they didn’t, and now they’re appreciating what I grew up appreciating. It’s kind of cool to see.”
While being a father and a husband continue to be top of mind, Fisher still loves the game that has given him so much over the years. And while he wouldn’t rule out a return to hockey in some capacity in the years to come, there are other interests commanding his attention for now.
What he is certain about, however, is his love for Music City.
That same pride that so many approached to discuss with him over the past few months, Fisher reciprocates tenfold. He may no longer be around the rink every day, but he’s never far away.
He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love Nashville. I couldn’t see myself and our family anywhere else,” Fisher said. “Our child was born here and we plan on being here a long time.”