What a weekend it is about to be for the Nashville Predators. There have been several moments throughout the past few years that could be labeled as historic for them, especially during the playoffs. But as far as the regular season goes, this might just be the biggest few days in the organization’s existence.
First of all, Pekka Rinne — longtime goaltender and icon in Nashville — will see his jersey hung in the rafters and retired in front of the home crowd at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday night. Afterwards, the Predators will take it outdoors to Nissan Stadium of the Tennessee Titans, where they will play in this year’s Stadium Series game. While this is the second time that they have played outdoors, it will be the first time that it has happened in Music City.
Let’s take a look at the team’s history and see how they have gotten to this moment in their franchise history.
The Predators have transformed culture in Nashville
Let’s make no mistake: Nashville is a full-fledged hockey town. Yes, somehow this small-market team that has won no Stanley Cups in a non-traditional hockey city has become a hockey town.
But it was not always like this. To truly understand how we got here, we have to go back to 2007 and before, which was a dark time for the Predators.
During this time, the Predators had only made the playoffs four times, and gotten nowhere. They lost in the first round every time, winning no more than two games each series and posting a record of 6-16.
But it turned out that was not even the worst thing that the Predators were dealing with. There was a serious chance that they were going to relocate in 2007, and it felt like this is where rock bottom had been reached for this young franchise. But you could also argue that this was where a spark was lit for them.
The Predators faithful heard this news and passionately responded, holding a “Save Our Preds” rally at Bridgestone Arena, known as Sommet Center at the time. The team also underwent an ownership change, as Craig Leipold sold the team to Predators Holdings LLC, who would begin their first season of ownership in 2008-2009.
Long story short, the team was saved from relocation, and would have the opportunity to start fresh. And man was it needed.
It would not take long for the Predators to finally win a playoff series, doing so by defeating the Anaheim Ducks in six games in the 2010-2011 playoffs. They would follow that up by taking out the Detroit Red Wings the next year in five games, and while they still failed to make it past the second round, it finally felt as if the Predators had a statement of legitimacy. And they have backed it up ever since.
Since the 2012-2013 season, the Predators have made the playoffs seven times, and look like they will make it again this year. Everyone knows about their surprise run to the Cup Finals in 2017, which officially put them on the map. Some were even calling the atmosphere in Nashville throughout that entire time as the craziest ever at the time, as Bridgestone was as loud as any other arena had been, and the streets of downtown Nashville were jam-packed.
And now, the Predators have played in a Winter Classic, and will play in a Stadium Series game in front of their very own fans this weekend. All that is left at this point is to get their hands on that ever so coveted Stanley Cup, something that has become an expectation for this team instead of just a dream.
I will be the first to say that it is frustrating that the team has gotten nowhere near the Finals since 2017. But it is just so hard to win, knowing where this franchise was, we cannot help but be grateful for everything that has happened.
No matter what happens on the scoreboard this weekend, just seeing all of the beautiful moments that are about to transpire is going to be one of the organization’s biggest wins. And the Predators are proof that no matter what, no matter how low you may go as a franchise, all you need is a little success, and if you can build on it, you will start to rise.
What we are about to see this weekend is a result of the success that the Predators have had not only on the ice, but bringing the fans into the building and making them a part of the hockey community. Nashville is a hockey town, and we have truly earned the right to say that.
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