It was the playoffs. It was Detroit. It was a chance to be in the starting lineup.
So forward Cody McLeod, just a rookie that season, wasn't about to say no to Colorado Assistant Coach Tony Granato's daring pre-game challenge.
We all know about the Red Wings' decades-old tradition of throwing an octopus onto the ice during the anthem of home playoff games, the animal's eight tentacles symbolizing the number of wins it used to take to capture the Stanley Cup.
Granato's proposed act of defiance for McLeod? Skate over to said octopus, pick it up and hurl it back into the Joe Louis Arena stands, simultaneously energizing his teammates and enraging the rabid Red Wings' faithful.
"He told me he'd start me if I did," McLeod said. "So I was like, 'Yeah, I'll do that. Let's get 'er going.'"
McLeod actually took the moment one step further, shaking the octopus in the direction of Red Wings forward Dallas Drake before sailing it over the glass and down the tunnel toward the locker room.
"It was just to let them know they were going to be in a battle," McLeod said. "That was a fun memory."
The mollusk tossing didn't turn out to be enough for the over-matched Avalanche, as they were swept in that second-round series by the Red Wings, who went on to capture the Stanley Cup in 2008.
But if there was ever any doubt about McLeod's willingness to take action on behalf of his teammates, it ended with the splat of tentacles in an enemy arena that afternoon.
Almost a decade later, McLeod's efforts are now inspiring the Predators, who are 5-1-1 in the seven games they've played since acquiring the agitating 6-foot-2, 210-pound forward. In those seven contests, McLeod has supplied two goals, one assist, three fights and a relentlessly aggressive, hard-hitting forecheck to a team that had been searching for more of an edge.
"There's a marked difference in physicality with Cody in the lineup," Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "He hits everything in sight, and he hits people hard. He's willing to scrap for himself or for his teammates. He's brought great leadership in the locker room and on the ice. He's really been a positive influence in the room."
The Predators, of course, knew a thing or two about McLeod's willingness to drop the gloves before they traded for him. That's because over the years, he'd fought no fewer than seven Predators according to hockeyfights.com. In alphabetical order, McLeod's Nashville foes have included Victor Bartley, Cody Bass, Rich Clune, Paul Gaustad, Eric Nystrom, Jordin Tootoo and - earlier this season - Austin Watson.
It took only a change of jerseys, however, for McLeod to immediately switch allegiances.
Video: NSH@COL: McLeod scores vs. Avs one day after trade
Just look at what happened less than 24 hours after the Predators acquired him, when he instigated a fight with his longtime Colorado friend and teammate, Jarome Iginla. Not long after returning from the penalty box that afternoon, McLeod stuffed home his first Predators goal, one that sparked Nashville - which had trailed 2-0 at the time of his sin bin exit - to rally for a 3-2 victory.
"It was a little strange at first," McLeod said of exchanging blows with Iginla. "But we were down a [goal], it was the second period and I thought our team could use a spark. So I asked him to go and we got 'er going."
A couple of quick fighting notes on McLeod, who's a middleweight scrapper unlike some of yesteryear's battleship-sized boxers: He's tied for the League lead in fighting majors this year with 11. He's fought 132 times during his 10-year career. He's not on good terms with Winnipeg's Chris Thorburn. They've fought seven times in the past four seasons.
But to be clear, the Predators wouldn't have traded for McLeod simply because he's willing to take on all comers. His attitude, his energy, his experience and his leadership abilities all made him an ideal pick-up for Nashville.
The Predators had parted ways with a number of veteran leaders - such as Shea Weber, Gaustad, Nystrom and Barret Jackman - during the offseason, creating an opening here for the likes of McLeod. The 32-year-old Manitoba native had been an alternate captain in Colorado for four seasons, a somewhat unusual designation for a player in his mold.
"He's been in the League a long time, he's a veteran player and he brings a lot of leadership, and I like when you have experienced guys," Predators goalie Pekka Rinne said. "They have a calming presence. He's one of those guys.
"He just played his first home game the other night, but to me, it already seems like he's been here for a while. I feel like he fits in perfectly."
The fit is also a good one for the red-haired, gap-toothed McLeod, who was being phased out in Colorado as the Avalanche re-tooled for the future.
In 28 games with the Avs this year, McLeod had averaged just 5:53 ice time and posted one point. But seemingly revitalized by his new role with the Preds, McLeod is averaging 8:34 ice time here and has contributed three points in seven games.
Video: CBJ@NSH: Zolnierczyk tucks home a loose puck in front
He supplied a McLeod-style highlight during the Preds' 4-3 win over Columbus on Thursday, using his strength to win a loose puck near the Blue Jackets' net and then stuffing a shot into the pads of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Harry Zolnierczyk knocked home the rebound, giving McLeod an assist and the Predators a lead they would never relinquish.
"It was a tough start of the year for me in Colorado because I wasn't playing much and our team was struggling," McLeod said. "But I ended up here and it's been great. I'm re-energized, we're in the playoff hunt and that's what everybody plays for."
Assuming the Predators do reach the postseason, who knows what new motivation McLeod might supply?