If you're going to play hockey outdoors, you have to look the part too.
When the Predators began collaborating with the NHL and adidas to design the jersey they'll wear in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day, there were a few things to keep top of mind.
First, every team that has ever participated in the League's signature outdoor game since the first installment in 2008 has worn a uniform that channels the history of the respective franchise or city. Secondarily, when you're playing at the Cotton Bowl, there's a certain aura that comes along with that - just think of all the legendary contests that have played out within its walls since 1930.
And finally, the uniforms have to pass the eye test.
Nashville unveiled their Winter Classic jersey this past Saturday to rave reviews from fans and media members alike to give the franchise a perfect look for the game while paying homage to Nashville's first professional hockey team, the Dixie Flyers.
"Designing it with adidas and the NHL to tie it back to the rich history that we have in our city going back to the Dixie Flyers, and then you combine that with the great tradition of college football of course in the Cotton Bowl…the idea was, 'How do we take our great game and have fun with our logo a little bit, and that's what the patch is for,'" Predators President and CEO Sean Henry said. "It really makes you think you're wearing a varsity jacket in the '50s."
That patch is a newly-designed tiger logo affixed to the left shoulder of the jersey that has a vintage feel through and through. The 'Nashville Predators' script across the front of the sweater mimics the look of the Dixie Flyers and their jerseys back in the '60s and early '70s.
It's an ideal mix of old and new with a number of elements that have never been seen on a Predators jersey before. So, how did the final design come to be?
Video: WC jersey honors hockey's roots in Nashville
"We started the process about a year ago I'd say, maybe 18 months ago," Henry said. "We probably had five or six different collaboration meetings. We'd send sketches, they'd send sketches, we'd tear them up, redraw them again and we did a lot of research because we did want to tie it back to that history. You want to pay the proper respect to our franchise, to the history that's here, to the history of the Cotton Bowl, and of course the Stars as well. That's the hardest part - we're not just designing one jersey. We're designing two jerseys that are really going to work well together. And I think we came up with that.
"It was one of those things where you change it, and change it, and change it, but when we finally came up with first the [tiger head] and then the script it was just like, 'Oh my gosh, let's just stop now. It's not going to get better.' I was absolutely in love."
Henry says the jerseys will make their on-ice debut on New Year's Day, of course, but the plan is for the Preds to wear them for two additional games later in the season. And while these uniforms will always be remembered as the first Winter Classic jerseys the Predators ever sported, the question still remains - when will Nashville host their own outdoor game?
At this point, it seems to be a question of not if, but when - and it may not be all that far off.
"Our fans want to be the center of the NHL, and they deserve to be," Henry said. "If you look at what we did with the All-Star Game, the Stanley Cup Final, those two events were bigger and better than anyone that's ever done those events before. It became really easy for the NHL to say, 'Let's put us in a Winter Classic.' Being the away team in a Winter Classic is really humbling because you need to find a fan base that will travel. And no one ever, as an away team, has bought as many tickets as our fans did in the Cotton Bowl. So, I think it's going to be pretty easy for us to say, 'Okay, what's the next great event for us to host in our city?' I think we'll see what that is and when that will be.
"We just have to thank our fans for getting us to where we are right now and pushing this. Let's face it, we're going to be in the center of a lot of NHL events in the near future because we have the best fans in all sports."