Skip to main content
The Official Site of the Nashville Predators

Back-to-Back for Bushwacker: The Inside Story of the Preds' Bull Head

Laviolette Reveals How Challenge, Sporting of Bull Head Came to Be; Preds Appreciate Coach Keeping His Word

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Senior Communications & Content Coordinator

Peter Laviolette admitted he didn't want to do it.

But, by the time he stepped behind the bench in Edmonton on Saturday night, it was already halfway to fruition. Buried deep in the visitors' locker room at Rogers Place, a mask in the shape of a bull's head was packed away, waiting for stardom.

And when Captain Roman Josi sailed a puck into an empty net to give the Predators their second victory in as many nights in the province of Alberta, upholding their end of the challenge, Laviolette's players began calling for Bushwacker.

As the horn sounded and the Preds filed onto the ice to congratulate goaltender Juuse Saros, Laviolette retreated back to his office and emerged with the mask affixed to his head, ready to conduct his postgame media availability.

His players had done their part - now, it was his turn.

How did Nashville's bench boss end up with a disguise that has now been seen around the world on just about every sports-highlight program?

For starters, Laviolette's wife, Kristen, initiated the whole thing.

"My wife came home with that bull's head," Laviolette revealed Monday at Bridgestone Arena. "She saw it in the store, it wasn't a lot of money and she bought it. She said, 'I don't know whether you'll use it, but I wasn't leaving the store without taking it.' I brought it in right away, and it reminded me of Bushwhacker."

Who is Bushwacker, you ask?

A former world champion bull on the Professional Bull Rider tour, Bushwacker had a reputation in his competing days for dominating the competition. As Laviolette described, Bushwacker "is one of the greatest specimens ever put on this earth."

As the Predators headed north to face Calgary and Edmonton on back-to-back nights, Laviolette felt it was the right time to add a little bit of extra incentive to the trip.

Video: Laviolette sports bull mask after win

"[Bushwacker] goes into team's buildings and he dismantles people, and we needed that type of an effort going up into Western Canada," Laviolette said. "It was just a conversation to have some fun and to try and realize how important the two games were and how good the two teams were."

Before the team departed last Thursday ahead of the first contest on Friday, Laviolette threw out the challenge to the group - win both games, and he would answer the backside of said challenge.

After some time for the players to think on their potential reward, Josi came back to state he and his teammates wanted the bull head to make an appearance. After careful consideration, Laviolette agreed that if the Predators were four points higher in the standings once the final horn sounded in Edmonton on Saturday night, he would do it.

"The guys want to have fun," Laviolette said. "At the end of the day, when there's a couple of minutes left in the game and Roman puts in the empty-netter and they're laughing at me and they're calling for Bushwhacker in the press conference, you know I'm in trouble. But, it was fun. It was good to go up there and win a couple of games and just have some fun with it."

As uncomfortable as Laviolette may have been facing a media throng in a way that no other head coach in NHL history has done, he certainly owned it.

And for the 23 players in the Nashville locker room? That means the world.

"He's just trying to bring a little extra to the regular games, and I really like that," Predators forward Filip Forsberg said of his coach. "It really gets the boys going… He's a man of his word, and everybody appreciated that."

"It put deeper meaning into some games," Nashville winger Ryan Hartman said. "It puts that extra drive. We got those first two points, and then with the last two points, we really wanted to see Lavi in that bull head. It was great to see."

What's even better is the 7-1-0 start the Predators have gotten off to, one of the best openings to a season the franchise has ever had. There is plenty of hockey still to be played - 74 more games in total - in a season that is likely to include a number of ups and downs, but it's moments like those that only aid in the strengthening of the all-important dressing room culture.

Laviolette has become a master at it over the past two decades in the NHL, and whatever he's doing in Nashville appears to be working.

Last season, Josi went to his head coach with a request to wear holiday attire - ugly Christmas suits, to be exact - on a road trip. Laviolette agreed on the condition of his club claiming at least five out of a possible six points on an earlier trip to Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. The Preds collected all six in the process, with Laviolette and his staff sporting the jolly outfits behind the bench in Dallas two days before Christmas.

With two challenges now visible to the outside world - and there are undoubtedly more that occur internally - the Predators have shown they don't mind some additional enticement to gain ground in the standings.

Laviolette says the bull head is now retired, packed away into Predators lore for the rest of time. However, don't discount the potential for other challenges in the weeks and months to come.

After all, in a League where points are at a premium from the first puck drop in October, the Preds seem to have a knack for bucking the trend and thinking in an unorthodox manner to provide a spark.

Even if it involves a raging bull.

"Everybody got a good kick out of it," Predators defenseman P.K. Subban said. "I think professional sports, sometimes, can be a little too serious, so it's always nice when you can have some fun like that with your coach… It makes a difference."

View More