Dan Ellis has been a feel-good story for the Nashville Predators this season. Originally a second-round selection by the Dallas Stars in the 2000 Entry Draft, the Orangeville, Ontario native signed on with Nashville as a free agent this summer, and has posted three shutouts and an 8-4-3 record thus far for the Preds. His .918 save percentage and 2.36 goals-against average also rank among the league leaders.
What appealed to you about the Predators upon signing here this summer?
I think one of biggest things was that it was a first-class organization, and a team with tradition for winning the past few years. They finished third overall a year ago, so it was an opportunity to go to a top-notch team and a top-notch organization. They were good in contract negotiations, very welcoming when I got here, and it has been great ever since. What have you enjoyed most about the town of Nashville since arriving?
I haven’t gotten a chance to see the city a whole lot, but the downtown strip is a very unique atmosphere with all the country music. You can go have a good time and listen to music with friends and family, and kick back and relax. It is an easy-going atmosphere and a big city with a small-town feel. I just feel really comfortable and at home in that kind of atmosphere.
How was it left with the Dallas organization? Did you guys just decide it was best to go your separate ways?
It was a mutual decision to part ways. They had made a decision to go with Mike Smith and Marty Turco, and locked them up long term, so there was no opportunity for advancement. I felt I had a good enough talent and was getting old enough that the window was starting the close to win in the NHL and play in the NHL, so I wanted to go to an organization with a little more opportunity and get a fresh start.Talk about being part of one of the first teams to play Division I hockey at Nebraska-Omaha.
It was great – it was an opportunity where you got to build a history and a tradition for a program, kind of starting from scratch. You try to help put a team on the map, as an original player. We were a young team, and took our bumps and bruises along the way, but it was a great situation and I got to play a lot of games.
What was your relationship like with Greg Zanon back then, and now? Did you talk to him before signing?
I spoke with him a little bit since we had a great relationship during our college time as teammates for three years. When I heard Nashville was interested and it was a potential place to call, I gave Greg a call and also Jed Ortmeyer a call, who I know from my days in Omaha, in order to get a feel for the city and the organization and see what they thought. They had nothing but good things to say about the city and the organization.How did you end up at UNO from Orangeville, Ontario?
I went to the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League after I was recruited out of Newmarket, Ontario playing in the Provincial Junior A team. I got a call from the coach in Omaha saying they wanted to give me a chance to play in their league. I didn’t know a lot about the USHL, but I got to see the U.S. for my last kick at the can. Things weren’t going very well for me in the hockey field at that time, so it was a chance to get some free travel. I was lucky that things worked out well to where I was drafted off my performance that season with the Lancers and ended up with a scholarship with the Mavericks. You arrived as kind of a “dark horse” candidate as the backup, and have since had great success, what has your mindset been through the whole process?
I have always tried to play each situation individually and not try to get ahead of myself. I am trying to make the most of each moment that comes and take advantage of every opportunity I get. You never know how long your career is going to last, or what is going to happen with injuries, so anytime you get a chance like this you just try to help the team out and prolong your stay as long as you can.Who has been the most influential people in your life and your hockey career?
My parents have been very influential on me, as well as a place called “Teen Ranch” back home which is a Christian hockey school that allowed me to establish some good roots in my personal life, and gave me an opportunity to develop as a hockey player. I met guys like Dave Teterren, who was my goalie coach back then, and a lot of other great people come into my life that helped me get to where I am. I appreciate the contributions they have made and will never forget them.
What did winning a Kelly Cup teach you about winning in your development as a player?
It was great. It gave me the chance to play a lot of playoff games. If you can when a championship in the East Coast Hockey League or in juniors you can win it at any level. It is the same mindset that goes into it – I don’t want to say it is as easy to win the Stanley Cup, but it is the same train of thought. You realize you have had success in the postseason and just try to build on that. That helps you enter any championship situation with confidence and ease.Talk about the goaltender position and the confidence that can rub off on the entire team from your play alone.
It is very important, when the goalie is playing well, it does rub off on the other players. They feel they can make plays and don’t have to worry about what is behind them, only worrying about their own position. From a goalie’s standpoint, that is what you want. You want to help your team out the best you can, and if you can help them on the scoreboard in addition to the mental aspect it is an added bonus.