Predators have made major impact on Nashville

Friday, 01.29.2016 / 5:17 PM
Shawn Roarke  - Director, Editorial

NASHVILLE -- The roots the Nashville Predators have grown during the past 18 years were perfectly evident Friday morning when approximately 350 members of the city's business community attended a breakfast event with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman at the landmark Wild Horse Saloon.

The event, hosted by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, was a celebration of the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend and what it means for the area's economy as well as what the Predators have meant for the identity of the city.

"Haven't the Nashville Predators become Nashville's team? Aren't they deep into the community?" Chamber of Commerce president Ralph Schultz asked the attendees, receiving shouts in the affirmative in response after each question. "Gary Bettman has been at the center of these things happening."

Country music legend Vince Gill, who is serving as the honorary Mayor of Smashville throughout the weekend and will be a celebrity coach of one of the All-Star teams during the festivities, was even more emphatic.

"I don't think you can be told thank you enough," said Gill, who has been a season ticket holder with the Predators since the inaugural season of 1998-99. "But, as a fan that loves this game and loves this team, I say thank you so much, Gary."

Often during the 45 minutes of conversation, hosted by Gill and Nashville Predators announcer Terry Crisp, the growth of the Predators and the part the League and Bettman have played in that process was discussed.

"It really speaks volumes about how the community has embraced the team," Commissioner Bettman said, noting many of the political dignitaries in the crowd, including Phil Bredesen, the former governor of Tennessee, former Nashville mayor Karl Dean, current Nashville mayor Megan Barry and Tennessee State Senator Jeff Yarbo. "It's palpable how much of a part of this community this team is and that is great to see."

The discussion also broached a number of other topics related to the game as a whole and the Predators specifically.

Commissioner Bettman talked about how the role of media has changed during his 23 years with the League, noting that email correspondence and the Internet were not yet omnipresent when he took the job.

"The fact is fans can connect with the game in ways you could only dream about; you couldn't even dream about it," he said. "You can get, as a fan, more content than ever before and you get it on your own terms. For us as a League, we have to not only make sure the game is great, because that is the most important thing we do and nothing else works if we don't have great competition, but we now have to provide more content in more ways, so that you can get what you want, when you want it and how you want it. That's probably been the biggest change in all sports.

"With the change in technology and the digital environment, we get more scrutiny in everything we do and everything our athletes do. Everything everybody does is subject to scrutiny and accountability now. That's not a bad thing. It's changed the way the world has functioned."

Commissioner Bettman also talked about the resumption of international competition, pointing out that the 2016 World Cup of Hockey will be played in Toronto in September and additional games on both the club and national team level are being discussed.

Commissioner Bettman talked about the push to limit the size of goaltending equipment and some of the hurdles that remain to the reforms the League would like to see happen, noting that the League has been aggressive in making changes when deemed necessary. He pointed to the shootout, 3-on-3 overtime and the removal of the red line for offsides as three examples of a League that will go against tradition if necessary to improve the game.

He also discussed the expansion process and updated the process of looking into the official applications from Las Vegas and Quebec City.

"I can't predict if we are going to expand by no teams, one team or two teams right now," he said. "But we are going through the process because the interest is there and, as a League, we have never been stronger than we are right now."

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