Greg Johnson was an original Predators player, among those individuals General Manager David Poile selected from the 26 established teams to stock Nashville's first NHL roster. The expansion draft was held in Buffalo on June 26, 1998, and a lot would happen before they took the ice for their first regular-season game on Oct. 10.
Goalies Mike Dunham and Tomas Vokoun were among those selected, along with defensemen Bob Boughner, Joel Bouchard and J.J. Daigneault. Some of the forwards moving to Nashville were Andrew Brunette, Scott Walker and Johnson.
From the very outset, it was clear Poile was going for character on his roster and not necessarily quick fixes. The team's first captain, Tom Fitzgerald, was a free-agent signee, who lived the expansion process earlier in the decade with Florida. Fitzgerald and Johnson were great examples of players who fit into the community and helped establish the new team in the market.
Of that group, Vokoun, Walker and Johnson would still be there for the team's sixth season - and first trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Johnson was the center of the team's first line, working with Brunette and Sergei Krivokrasov. That forward grouping was on the ice to start the team's first game, against the Florida Panthers. They were together to produce the first goal in team history three nights later, versus the Carolina Hurricanes. Johnson had the secondary assist on Brunette's goal.
While primarily a checking-line center when he joined the team, he had some big offensive moments. One of those ended the first game the Toronto Maple Leafs ever played in Nashville.
Another helped to feed Predators fans back in the day.
At the end of the franchise's sixth season, the team made the playoffs. They would meet their measuring stick, the Detroit Red Wings, with the first two games at Joe Louis Arena. Johnson was the team's captain, and he set up the first postseason goal in team history.
After losing the 2004-05 season, the Predators got back to work, adding Paul Kariya to the mix. The team won its first eight games of the 2005-06 season and took 12 of its first 18 as they arrived in Detroit. The Predators took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Johnson in the first period. Not long thereafter, everything came to a halt.
There was no more hockey played that night. Neither side was ready to resume after that near-tragedy struck. Johnson, in his position as Predators' captain, made his side's stance clear in a television interview while a decision was being made. The Red Wings, Predators and the NHL ultimately juggled the schedule so that the teams played back-to-back in Detroit in January, with another game added to the schedule in April.
What was it like for the players in those early years of establishing the team in Middle Tennessee? Johnson sat down with Terry Crisp to reminisce.
In March of 1998, while still with the Chicago Blackhawks, Greg was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune for the paper's "Two Minutes in the Box with…" series. He summed himself up so well when asked to use three words to describe himself: "competitive, honest, loyal." Those qualities are what made him such an outstanding captain for those early Predator teams.