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Predators co-owner loving life at Stanley Cup Final

W. Brett Wilson says long playoff run has been 'unreal fun'

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / NHL.com Staff Writer

NASHVILLE -- W. Brett Wilson, then the newest owner of the English soccer team Derby County FC, made his way out to the South Stand at his team's Pride Park Stadium and hung out with the fans.

Everyone knew the chants. They started and ended at the same time, like clockwork.

It was like a club with a secret password.

"I was stunned the first time I was at the pitch," Wilson, a co-owner of the Nashville Predators, said before a 5-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday. "The way the fans could instantly start a chant. Where did that come from? Who started it? It's as if there's a magic switch."

There seems to be a similar magic switch at Bridgestone Arena.

Predators fans long have known this about the special atmosphere, but the word is spreading with their first appearance in the Final. Crowd participation in Nashville smoothly has choreographed elements of the chanting and signing that you often hear from fans at European soccer matches.

 

[RELATED: Complete Stanley Cup Final series coverage]

 

Wilson had owned a third of Derby County but sold his stake a few years ago. He's best-known from his days as a cast member of the popular TV show, "Dragons' Den," the Canadian version of the ABC television show "Shark Tank."

He owns about 12.7 percent of the Predators now after first purchasing a five-percent stake in 2011. His adult life has been about crafting deals and substantial philanthropic efforts, initially making his name and fortune in the energy sector.

But the Predators' run to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final has been "surreal" for the 59-year-old from Calgary.

"Nashville is more," Wilson said. "I expected it to be exciting. I've been in Calgary a long time, so I've watched the [Calgary Flames'] playoff run. I remember 2004 [when the Flames reached the Final]. We were friends with all of the owners when I was at FirstEnergy.

"We were literally chartering our clients, chasing the Flames. I know what it feels like. Or at least I thought I did."

Wilson's enthusiasm was boundless.

"Unreal fun, eh?" he said.

Saturday certainly was. The Predators, hosting a Final game for the first time, defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1 during a special night that began with a free Alan Jackson concert on Broadway.

The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 2-1. Game 4 is at Bridgestone Arena on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

Video: Keith Urban on singing the anthem in Nashville

"How often can you see a million-dollar-a-night act do a free show out in front of an arena? Just for the benefit of the community," Wilson said. "Alan Jackson is extraordinary.

"Then we have the A-listers lining up [to sing]. Extraordinary artists just want to be part of it. The relationship with the city is extraordinary."

He spotted country music star Keith Urban in the parking garage before Game 3 on Saturday.

"I went over and said, 'Hi, I'm one of the [Predators] owners,'" Wilson said. "Before I could finish, he said, 'Thank you for having me.'

"He wasn't here to share his face or his voice. He was just here to cheer. It's pretty cool when you've got that engagement on every level."

Wilson said he had about 40 friends from Calgary and Toronto with him in his box for Game 3. Some never had seen a Predators game; others were attending their first NHL game.

You could say it was the perfect introduction. A loud one.

Wilson said to an acquaintance just before the second period, "Just wait till we score."

Who knew the Predators would score five times?

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