When Victoria Lentini got a phone message from the Nashville Predators a couple of weeks ago, she warily thought someone was marketing tickets to her and began wondering where she had submitted her number. Only later did she remember that she had entered a contest to win Vince Gill’s front-row tickets for the April 3 Predators game. And when she returned the call, she learned she had won.
Lentini, who has been a Preds fan since moving to Nashville in January, was introduced to the Smashville experience by friend Gary Ogletree. “I became a fan after the first game,” she says. Ogletree, meanwhile, has a longer tenure with the team. He is a day-one season-ticketholder with three seats in the notorious Section 303. He has taken Lentini to a number of Predators games using his seats, and Lentini was glad to be able to return the favor with access to Gill’s on-the-glass view for a game. To top it off, the match—a 3-1 Predators win over the Winnipeg Jets—took place on Ogletree’s birthday.
The contest Lentini won, dubbed “A Friend of Vince’s is a Friend of Ours,” required entrants to “like” both the Nashville Predators and Vince Gill Facebook pages for the chance to win seats graciously offered by Gill, a longtime Predators supporter who was away that night performing at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Lentini’s entry was one of over 2,600.
While Ogletree had experienced seats on the glass before, the view mere inches from the ice was a new one for the contest winner. “Actually it was kind of frightening,” she says. “The first two plays, the puck hit the glass right in front of us. I think I screamed out loud.”
After getting adjusted to their close proximity to the action, Lentini and Ogletree enjoyed the view. “To be able to see the expressions on the players’ faces, you just don’t get that up there [in Section 303],” Lentini says. “It really does make the game more exciting.”
“At that level you can actually see how big the guys are and you can tell a little bit more how quickly things are moving,” Ogletree says. “From those seats, you get a really good indication of how quickly the puck comes in on net.
“In 303, you’re up there where you’re looking over the whole ice and you can see the plays develop very well,” he continues.
Like Lentini, Ogletree was hooked on Predators hockey after his first game. “Actually the first NHL game I ever saw played was the first game that the Predators played,” he explains. “I’d watched some of the [Nashville] Knights [minor league] games and such before that, but that was my exposure to hockey before that.”
In addition to being hockey enthusiasts, both guests admit to being fans of the man who donated the tickets, Vince Gill.
“I saw Vince Gill on stage at the Ryman, I guess with Earl Scruggs, in the last year or two,” Ogletree says. “That was pretty neat.”
Capping the friends’ experience was a final touch from the country legend: Both tickets were signed by Gill.
“I’m glad he had a concert that night,” Ogletree says.