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Nashville to host 2016 NHL All-Star weekend

by Robby Stanley

NASHVILLE -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced Friday the 2016 NHL All-Star weekend will be hosted by the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena, on Jan. 30 and Jan. 31, 2016.

The 2016 All-Star Game will be the first the Nashville has hosted. The Predators hosted the 2003 NHL Draft, an event that was well-received throughout the League. The NHL is confident that an All-Star Game in Nashville will garner a similar reception.

"There is no doubt that putting our game center stage here in Nashville is going to be great for the NHL and for Nashville," Bettman said.

The Predators are looking forward to putting Bridgestone Arena and the city of Nashville on display for the world to see. The Predators are trying to set the bar high for the fans to make the 2016 NHL All-Star weekend an experience they never will forget.

"As we celebrate being awarded the 2016 All-Star weekend, our pledge is to create the most memorable experience ever for everyone involved," Predators chairman Tom Cigarran said. "From the greatest players in the world, to our fans, to fans from around the National Hockey League and the world media, will come here to experience all that Nashville has to offer."

Nashville has hosted all sorts of special events, particularly in the music industry. However, NHL All-Star weekend will be the most unique hockey experience in the city's history.

It's an event the Predators will begin working on immediately.

"With today’s announcement we set forth on an aggressive, 14-month timeline to put together the best All-Star weekend in the 100-year history of the NHL," Predators CEO Jeff Cogen said.

The announcement Friday was the culmination of a long, and at times challenging, road for Nashville mayor Karl Dean. When Dean took office back 2007, the Predators faced an ownership crisis that left the future of the franchise in question. Because of that challenge, the All-Star Game announcement holds special meaning for Dean.

"I came into office and we were immediately confronted with the challenge of keeping the Predators in the city, so that was really one of the first things we got done," he said. "It's really gratifying to see this happening."

Since joining a local ownership group that took over the team in 2007, Cigarran has been able to watch the growth of hockey in Nashville firsthand. The Predators continue to make a big impact on hockey, not only in the Nashville area but throughout Tennessee.

"The more I've been involved, the more I am excited about the game of hockey, the more I've learned about it and the more excited I am about the future of this franchise," Cigarran said. "This franchise is going to be here forever."

One of Nashville's big selling points for signing on to host the 2016 NHL All-Star weekend was the many changes that have taken place in the downtown area during the past few years. A brand new Music City Center has played a major role in growing the area around Bridgestone Arena.

Nashville's historic Broadway is located directly outside the front door of Bridgestone Arena, which will be an attractive area for fans and other attendees alike in January 2016.

"Bridgestone Arena is situated in one of the most vibrant downtowns anywhere," Bettman said. "An area that's loaded with restaurants, retail, music venues, points of interest."

Nashville's players welcomed the news of NHL All-Star weekend coming to their town as a reward to a fan base whose support for them has grown during the past few years.

"I think it's great just for the city of Nashville, the whole organization and the fans," Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said. "Our fans truly deserve that and our city deserves that. It's nice to get to showcase your own city."

Rinne believes fans from all around the League will enjoy experiencing Nashville as an All-Star weekend host city.

"It's a game where it's made for the fans," he said. "Obviously it's for recognizing some of the players, but the whole happening and the whole event is for the fans. I think that's going to be great."

For a relatively young franchise, being able to host an All-Star weekend for the first time will be a memorable experience. There is a buzz for hockey around Nashville that perhaps is at an all-time high.

Now the city will be at the center of the hockey world for a weekend to put on a show for the entire League.

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