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Stanley Cup Final

Predators center Ryan Johansen named honorary Nashville mayor

Ceremony prior to Game 4 of Cup Final against Penguins latest example of growing excitement in city

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / NHL.com Staff Writer

NASHVILLE -- Center Ryan Johansen continued the Nashville Predators' takeover of the city.

Johansen was named Honorary Mayor of Nashville for the Day during Preds Pride Day celebration at city hall Monday.

"I'm really excited," he said prior to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports). "What a cool opportunity and tremendous honor. It's great that they thought about having a Predator out to do something like this and celebrate our team. I'm just going to soak in the experience and really enjoy the experience of being Honorary Mayor."

Along with Mayor Megan Barry, he unveiled a sign renaming 5th Avenue South "Predators Way" for the month of June. The street runs alongside Bridgestone Arena.

 

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The ceremony came two days after the Predators defeated the Penguins 5-1 in Game 3. Nashville trails the best-of-7 series 2-1.

Johansen has become a rallying point for his teammates since he sustained a left thigh injury against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final, and needed season-ending surgery for acute compartment syndrome.

"Watching these guys in the Stanley Cup Final, as hard as it is not playing, I'm so proud of them," Johansen said. "Watching them every day … watching the games, they leave it on the ice every day."

Johansen stood in the hallway at Bridgestone Arena before Game 3 of the Final and gave all of this teammates high-fives before they took the ice on Saturday.

"He's a big guy with a big game and a big heart," Barry said. "Even though he is not playing right now, he's doing everything he can to help his teammates win."

Video: Nashville declares today Predators Pride Day

Barry also praised Johansen's commitment to the Make-a-Wish Foundation and other community involvement, and Johansen returned the praise.

"Everything from top to bottom has just been first-class about this city and this town and this community," he said.

The ceremony honoring Johansen and the Predators is the latest in the rising amount of local excitement surrounding all things Predators.

"You can hear it in my voice [from Saturday]," Barry said, sounding hoarse. "I was cheering really hard."

Predators CEO and president Sean Henry was on hand for the announcement, and said the franchise would be turning a profit.

"This year we will have black ink," he said.

It's not the first time.

"Recent past, last year as well," he said. "I don't really disclose numbers, but everything that we've brought in is a reinvestment in the future. You look around the building."

Video: Ryan Johansen on his recovery and Stanley Cup Final

There were several turning points for the organization along the way in recent years. Henry said hosting the 2016 All-Star Game was a big breakthrough in terms of wider, League-wide recognition.

"We're not old enough to have a bandwagon yet," Henry said of the Predators, who played their first game in the 1998-99 season.

He did reflect upon a point in 2007, when there was talk that the franchise might relocate to Hamilton, Ontario.

"Every new team that is a new team enjoys a honeymoon," he said. "We had two honeymoons because we got divorced, almost, 10 years ago. I go back to that all the time … our fans stepped in."

They stepped in and started singing and chanting and have managed to turn Bridgestone Arena into a viewing experience like none other.

"I think it's a really healthy mix of SEC football, SEC basketball, NASCAR and the passion of what we think of the European soccer fans," Henry said. "You have all those passions. It's a marriage of all those things."

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