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The Official Site of the Nashville Predators

10th Anniv.: Where were they then?

by Kevin Wilson / Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators' 2007-2008 season marks the tenth season in the history of the franchise. We're celebrating the occasion with a special section of our Web site, dedicated to revisiting the history of the organization. This section will grow with new features and interactive elements as the 10th Anniversary Season unfolds. (Note: Click the 10th Anniversary banner at the top of any page in this section to return to this index.)

This Month in Predators' History

Oct. 10, 1998
The Nashville Predators hosted the franchise's first NHL game vs. the Florida Panthers. In front of the sellout crowd of 17,298, Ray Whitney scored the only goal of the 1-0 game and the Panther's Kirk McLean earned the shutout.

Oct. 6-7, 2000
The Predators opened the 2000-01 season with a two-game series against the Penguins at the Saitama Super Arena outside of Tokyo, Japan.

Oct. 8, 2002
Greg Johnson was named the second captain in team history.

Oct. 8, 2005
After nearly 18 months of inactivity, the Predators returned to NHL action with a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks in front of a capacity crowd at the Sommet Center.

Flashback Feature: Where were they then?

By Kevin Wilson, Nashville Predators

Ten seasons have passed since the Nashville Predators began their inaugural campaign, Oct. 10, 1998. And with the departures of expansion selections Tomas Vokoun, Scott Walker and Greg Johnson in recent years, only members of the coaching staff and front office remain from the infant stages of the franchise.

An age discrepancy of 16 years separates the oldest (Martin Gelinas, 37) and youngest (Alexander Radulov, 21) players on the 2007-08 edition of the Predators, so there was a wide range of places and leagues the current Preds were playing in 10 seasons ago. That being said, we reflect back on that 1998-99 season and ask, where were they then?

The team’s most veteran member, Martin Gelinas, was entering his 10th full season in the National Hockey League, having played for four different franchises and winning a Stanley Cup in 1990. Alexander Radulov, on the other hand, was just a 12-year-old boy growing up in Nizhni Tagil, Russia.

Only five of the players who started the 2007-08 season with the Preds were full-time NHLers back in 1998. While Gelinas was toiling east of Nashville for the Carolina Hurricanes, captain Jason Arnott was in his first full season with the New Jersey Devils after being traded there from
Jason Arnott played his first full season in the Meadowlands in 1998
Edmonton in Jan. 1998. Just one season later, playing on the famous “A” line with Petr Sykora and Patrik Elias, Arnott would help lead the Devils to a Stanley Cup title.

Arnott’s linemate, J.P. Dumont, was just breaking into the league as a rookie with Chicago. He played 25 games in “the show” that season, in addition to splitting time with Portland of the American Hockey League and Chicago of the International Hockey League. Greg de Vries, meanwhile, started the season with Predators, having been acquired from Edmonton just nine days before opening night. The Stratford, Ontario native was dealt to Colorado a mere six games into the campaign, where he went on to win a Cup in 2001.

Both Steve Sullivan and Radek Bonk were plying their trade north of the border – Sullivan in Toronto and Bonk in Ottawa. For Sullivan, 1998-99 proved to be a breakout year, as he pieced together his first 20-goal season with the Leafs, after never having more than 10 markers in his previous four NHL seasons. The next season, the diminutive forward was claimed on waivers by the Blackhawks, where he played until he came to Nashville in the spring of 2004. Bonk played all but one game for the Senators that year, setting a career-high in game-winning goals with six.
Radek Bonk scored 16 goals with Ottawa in 1998-99.

Nine of the 23 current Preds, were playing either Junior “A,” or major junior hockey, preparing to make the leap to the collegiate or professional ranks.

Vernon Fiddler (Kelowna Rockets), Dan Hamhuis (Prince George Cougars), Darcy Hordichuk (Saskatoon Blades) and Jerred Smithson (Calgary Hitman) were all on the Canadian plains in the Western Hockey League. Jordin Tootoo and Martin Erat, were both in their final seasons prior to breaking into the WHL – Tootoo for OCN of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (he went to the Brandon Wheat Kings the following season) and Erat for Zlin in his homeland of the Czech Republic (he came to North America to play for the Red Deer Rebels in 1999).

Greg Zanon, Jed Ortmeyer and Dan Ellis were all in their final seasons of junior before heading to college, each for a school in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. Zanon was in the British Columbia Hockey Association patrolling the blue line for South Surrey while goaltender Dan Ellis was across the country in the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League playing with Newmarket. The pair both headed to the University of Nebraska Omaha the following season. Jed Ortmeyer was preparing to leave his hometown of Omaha after playing two seasons for the Lancers of the United States Junior “A” Hockey League. He would land in Ann Arbor, Mich., as a freshman at the University of Michigan in the fall of 1999.
David Legwand was the Preds first ever draft pick in 1998.

Though he was only 18 years old, David Legwand was already on Nashville’s radar after being the first ever draft pick of the team just a few months before. He spent the season with the Plymouth (Mich.) Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League, and played the inaugural Fangtastic FANale with the Preds on April 17.

For Ryan Suter, Kevin Klein and Shea Weber, the National Hockey League was still just a childhood dream in 1998. The threesome selected at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft in Nashville were only 13 years old when the Preds began play in their inaugural season, the age of the average eighth grader.

Three more current-day Predators were hard at work playing professional hockey, but in other leagues, hoping to someday rise to the most elite level in the world – a goal they have all since achieved. Marek Zidlicky was still in his homeland of the Czech Republic, playing with Kladno. It was the  following season, 1999-00, that the offensive defenseman finally left home to play in Finland, a move that got him enough exposure to be selected by the New York Rangers in the sixth round of the 2001 Draft. The move eventually brought him to North America, ultimately landing him in Nashville after the Preds attained his rights in the Mike Dunham trade. Scott Nichol had gotten his first taste of big time hockey with Buffalo, and was a full-time contributor for its AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans. He did not play his first full NHL season until 2001-02 with Calgary.
Chris Mason appeared in his first three NHL games in 1998-99 with Nashville, and played 34 more with Milwaukee that season.

Finally, we come to the whirlwind career of starting goaltender Chris Mason. The resilient netminder was in his first go-around with the franchise in 1998, playing three games for the Preds in addition to 34 more with their International Hockey League affiliate in Milwaukee. He stayed with the organization until 2002, when he signed with Florida. After one season there, it was back to Nashville, where he steadily made his ascension to one of the league’s best backstops.

10th Anniversary Feature Archive:
Flashback Feature: Where are they now? Greg Johnson
Flashback Feature: Most Impressive single-game offensive performances
Flashback Feature: Where are they now? Cliff Ronning
10th Anniv.: Where were they then? 
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