With the Nashville Predators' first meeting with the National Hockey League's newest team, the Vegas Golden Knights, coming up, my thoughts naturally go back to the Predators' beginnings.
I had always wanted to be in on the creation of a team, and the Predators were nice enough to give me that opportunity. The Predators were part of a wave of four teams (along with Atlanta, Columbus and Minnesota) that came into being from 1998 through 2000. Last season, the Predators became the first member of that group to make the Stanley Cup Final.
So it was 17 years between that wave of expansion and the debut this fall of the Golden Knights. Never has an expansion team had as generous a pool of players from which to choose than the Knights did.
Even so, the start the Knights have had has surprised so many. They began their first season with three straight wins and that proved to be no fluke as they extended that to 8-1-0. They are 17-9-1 heading into their first meeting with the Predators.
The memories of the Predators' first season are still vivid. We may as well start at the very outset of franchise history. This is how it all started:
That opener turned out to be a shutout loss to the Florida Panthers.
Three nights later (Oct. 13, 1998), they hosted the Carolina Hurricanes (the former Hartford Whalers), and scored their first goal, as called by the Hurricanes' television duo of John Forslund and Tripp Tracy.
One of the many "firsts" for the team happened in January:
How about a medley of first-season highlights?
If you really want to learn about expansion teams in the NHL, the best man to consult is Preds TV Studio Analyst Terry Crisp. Terry was plucked from the Boston Bruins by the St. Louis Blues in the 1967 Expansion Draft. That was the year the League doubled in size, from six to 12 teams. Here's a recent conversation with Terry about his experiences as a player with two expansion teams, then a coach and later a broadcaster with two more:
The Golden Knights are enjoying their beginnings, and we can only imagine the stories they will have to tell as time goes on.