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Country Music Star Bentley, Preds Players Share Unique Nashville Bond

Predators Players Enjoy Relationship with Hockey Fan Dierks Bentley, Others in Country Music Industry in Nashville

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Senior Communications & Content Coordinator

There's just something different about playing professional hockey in Nashville.

The Southern hospitality, favorable weather and raucous crowds all contribute to making Music City an incomparable destination for those who skate for the Predators.

Also, sometimes country-music superstar Dierks Bentley joins you on the ice at practice - or shows up at your house for a rendezvous.

Sure, there are other destinations around the League where athletes and celebrities hanging in the same circles are commonplace - see New York or Los Angeles, among others - but Nashville, Tennessee, can have a different aura, a more welcoming vibe than those other spots, and so do the musicians in the world of country music.

In Nashville, just about everyone is still down to earth, as is the city itself, still capable of performing on a big stage without compromising the values that make it such a special place.

The bond its hockey team has with those who strum six strings for a living is exhibit A of that fact, and Bentley is undoubtedly among the franchise's most fervent supporters from that realm.

On Friday night, Bentley will play a sold-out concert at Bridgestone Arena as part of his Burning Man Tour, the same building where he's sung the National Anthem prior to Game 4 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, cheered on his favorite team to countless victories, even laced up the skates and scored a goal during the 2016 NHL All-Star Skills Competition.

In a way, Bentley probably wouldn't mind being a hockey player instead.

"Oh yeah, I feel like that's how it is," Predators Captain Roman Josi laughed. "Like, you meet a musician, and they're all like, 'I wish I was an athlete!' And we're all like, 'I wish I was a musician!'"

Born and raised in Switzerland, Josi understandably didn't grow up with the sounds of Southern twang carrying through the atmosphere, but now that he's a Nashvillian, the blueliner has worked it into the rotation, especially Bentley's hits.

It's the least he could do for someone who has become a friend over the years, both experiencing a rise to an elite level in the same town.

"We're all big fans of him, big fans of his music and it's awesome to have him around," Josi said of Bentley. "Just to have support from guys like him, he's such an awesome guy and obviously an awesome musician, so it's pretty fun for us to have a guy like him support us."

Colton Sissons recalls seeing Bentley back in Milwaukee long before the Preds centerman became a mainstay in Nashville. Even then, the artist was practicing with the Admirals, getting his hockey fix in on the road whenever possible.

Nowadays, Sissons - who lists "Drunk On A Plane" and "Woman, Amen" among his favorite Bentley tunes - still sees the singer around, still with the same humbleness despite the successes.

"He's such a stand-up guy," Sissons said. "He's not one of those celebrities that can't hang out with other people and be a part of other things… We have a unique opportunity here in Nashville being so close to the music scene, specifically the country side of things. I've had a chance to meet a few guys, and Dierks definitely tops the list."

When Ryan Hartman was dealt to Nashville from Chicago just about a year ago, he knew he was coming to a town known for its place in the country music world, but it wasn't long until he recognized the stature his new organization holds within it.

"Soon after I got traded here, we had a get-together, and I didn't really recognize him at first," Hartman said of his first meeting with Bentley. "He was in a group with a couple of the guys having a conversation, and then one of the guys said, 'Hey, Dierks, what's up?' Then I realized it was Dierks Bentley just casually hanging out, just another one of the guys.

"It's cool to have a guy like that who's so pristine in the music industry, he's had so many top songs, and to have him around and be a fan of us just as much as we're a fan of him, it's pretty cool."

Ryan Johansen has made the most of his time in Nashville when it comes to forming relationships with those in the industry. He's taken guitar lessons with Brothers Osborne. He's appeared on Trisha Yearwood's Food Network show on more than one occasion.

And last September, when Johansen hosted a team party at his house to kick off the 2018-19 season, Bentley was there, too, celebrating with the organization as a new journey began.

"The culture in the city with musicians and stars is what's really impressed me in my time here," Johansen said. "It's amazing just how humble and easygoing they are. It's a special thing here in Nashville, and all you hear is good things about the way these musicians carry themselves and represent music in this city. I think that's the biggest reason we really appreciate being involved with these musicians. We're proud that we've built relationships with these people."

That's just the way it is in Nashville. You never know who you might see out on the town, who might be clad in Gold cheering for the Preds on any given night.

Don't be surprised if Bentley finds time in between tour dates and recording award-winning music to find his way back to Bridgestone this spring.

Some of his biggest fans certainly would appreciate it.

"For him to be doing his thing and being at a very successful part of his career, it's just a lot of fun," Johansen said. "I'm sure for him, watching our team grow into what it is today, and for us, just to see him do his thing, it's pretty cool."

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