NASHVILLE - The Nashville Predators hosted 24 hours of continuous hockey at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday and Sunday as a way to further promote hockey in the Nashville community.
The 24 hours of hockey started with Nashville's 5-0 win against the St. Louis Blues. Forward Filip Forsberg had his second natural hat trick in three games and goaltender Pekka Rinne earned his 40th career shutout.
Bridgestone Arena hosted many different levels of hockey after the Predators game, including an alumni game between the Predators and Blues, college hockey between Middle Tennessee State University and Mississippi State University, adult league hockey and more.
The Nashville Fire Department hockey team also participated in the event, taking the ice at 6:45 a.m. local time. Some players were fresh off a shift at the fire station. They held a 4-on-4 scrimmage that also included some players from local adult leagues in Nashville.
"Our day is pretty much starting out," said Scott Wrenn of the Nashville Fire Department. "I'm one of the guys that worked last night and came off shift at 6 a.m., and shot over here real quick and got to skate with these guys. Got some fire department guys and then some league guys that come out and skate and have a lot of fun."
The Nashville Fire Department hockey team has been growing since it started in 1997. They have 35 players on the roster and recently won their first tournament in December 2015 in Chicago. The team plays in tournaments throughout the country.
"I'm actually one of the guys that helped start it back in 1997 when the Predators were getting the expansion team," Wrenn said. "We were all sitting around Station 28 -- myself and captain Bobby Owen and now retired chief Jim Holzemer -- we were all sitting around talking about getting a team. What we did is rent the ice at the old Municipal Auditorium. There was a guy on the team whose uncle used to play with the old Dixie Flyers that were here in Nashville, and he came out and started teaching guys how to skate."
There is a deep connection between the Nashville Fire Department hockey team and first responders throughout North America. One of the main purposes of the team is to honor and remember those who lost their lives in the line of duty.
"Our whole motto is we skate to remember," Wrenn said. "All of our jerseys honor the 343 firemen who lost their lives on 9/11, and all of our games in some way, fashion or form are going to be toward charity. Either we skate for a particular individual or a group. We do that here and abroad. We go to Chicago next week and skate in another tournament there and it's for their 100 club, which basically gets money for if a fireman or policeman dies in the line of duty, they come in and they will pay off the spouse's bills. All of their bills. The spouse and the family starts out at zero."
The Predators have made a strong effort to promote and grow the game in Nashville ever since they arrived, and 24 Hours of Hockey was another unique way of making hockey accessible to people in the community.
"The Predators are doing a lot to build new rinks around Nashville and get hockey growing," Wrenn said. "They've helped out with the youth league teams, getting free skates for the kids, adult beginner leagues so we've got adults starting out now. We on our team actually got some guys that are just starting out. Their kids were playing in the G.O.A.L. (Get Out and Learn) Program that the Predators helped get going so they started skating. So we've got about four guys that just started with the fire department team just this past year, beginner adults. The Predators have done a lot to get hockey growing here in Nashville."