One of the greatest opportunities of my career was to be named the Voice of the Nashville Predators in August of 1998, a few weeks before training camp opened. That set up all sorts of firsts for me.
Going through training camp, we played all nine games on the road. The team played in Huntsville, Alabama; Pensacola, Florida; Little Rock, Arkansas; Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio, and at the home of the team's farm club, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; among others. The team went 2-4-3 in those games, so there still was no real idea how the group would do.
I was thinking about how long the first season might turn out to be. Would the team threaten or approach the marks of the 1974-75 Washington Capitals (8-67-5) or would they be closer to the 1993-94 Florida Panthers (33-34-17)? That's a wide range there. On top of that, with no home games in the preseason, how would the crowd be?
On Oct. 10, the Florida Panthers were in town and we found out.
Yes, they were loud and they stood much of the time. However, the Panthers (and goaltender Kirk McLean) shut out the Predators in the opener, so we still had no idea how they would celebrate a goal.
Three nights later, the Predators hosted the Carolina Hurricanes- and we still weren't sure how they were going to celebrate a goal after the first one - as called by the Carolina TV team of John Forslund and Tripp Tracy.
But, by the end of the night that Tuesday, Nashville would have their first win.
It just so happened that 20 years later, the man who coached the Predators through their first 15 seasons, Barry Trotz, was back at 501 Broadway for the occasion, working the bench of the New York Islanders.
He could not help but look back on that night against the Hurricanes:
Yes, there was the strange first goal in Predators' history, but the other two - by Denny Lambert and J.J. Daigneault - were indisputable. The final was 3-2, and that was also the score at the end of the first period. Goaltender Mike Dunham had to hang on as the team managed to kill off eight Hurricanes' power plays.
Trotz went on to recount how the franchise was put together from the outset.
All in all, it was a special night - and it was especially nice to relive it with the help of Barry Trotz.