At this time 15 years ago, I still didn’t know that I would be moving to Nashville in just a few weeks, that I would be on a flight on September 11th to get me here for the first day of the first training camp on the 12th.
From the time the four provisional franchises in Nashville, Atlanta, Columbus and Minnesota had been announced in 1997, I had decided I wanted to try for the position here.
Some don’t like the idea of the pain inherent to an expansion franchise, but I truly looked forward to being part of “the birthing process.”
I had already worked for an NHL franchise in a “non-traditional market,” having teamed with Hockey Hall of Famer Bob Miller on the Los Angeles Kings’ broadcasts, so I had first-hand experience with those challenges.
Why Nashville? Two reasons.
First of all, I was familiar with the city, thanks to my years of doing baseball. I had come here to attend Baseball’s Winter Meetings in 1983. Beginning in 1985, I began making three-four trips per season with the Buffalo Bisons into Greer Stadium for games with the Sounds.
In addition, my in-laws had relocated to Knoxville years before, and those visits would be a lot easier (and more frequent) from Nashville than they would from Buffalo.
Downtown Nashville in 1985 bears very little resemblance to the Nashville of today. Second Avenue was virtually barren compared to what it is now. The building of what is now known as Bridgestone Arena began before the spring tornado of 1998, but the Arena spurred so much additional development, culminating in the Music City Center, which just opened.
All of that could not have been foreseen then. Was major league hockey going to work? The city had housed the game before, to varying results.
The Eastern Hockey League’s Dixie Flyers brought the professional game to Municipal Auditorium in 1962, folding in 1971. Ten years later, the Sounds’ Larry Schmittou tried it again with the Central League South Stars; they stayed for another season, but in another league, the Atlantic Coast Hockey League. (Think about it, Nashville’s baseball team is now in the Pacific Coast League?).
From 1989 through 1998, there were the Nashville Knights of the ECHL, followed by the Nashville Knighthawks and Nashville Ice Flyers of the Central Hockey League.
So the challenges facing this new franchise would be considerable. Yet, I welcomed them and have enjoyed every minute of it for 15 years. (Certainly, I never dreamed I would be here for so long!) I will continue to share some of these memories with you as this anniversary season rolls out.